How can you find your flow even with things that aren’t the easiest?
I am traveling today. A road trip through the desert of Arizona. I am not much of a desert girl. I have spent too many years living in the snow and ice. Although, I can’t say I crave getting to the hot desert weather, I do love Saguaro cactus.
Today, as I pass all these crazy cacti flying past my car window, they are reminding me to notice the beauty in sharp, edgy, and unique things. Not always the easiest things to be around, but they are pretty cool anyway.
Here’s to finding your Friday Flow with the prickly things in your life. Where can you shift from feeling the pain to noticing the beauty? Even if just a sliver of recognition toward the unique experience it is giving you right now.
Let’s talk about sleep. According to the CDC one third of the US population struggles to get enough sleep. take medication to get and stay asleep. Our work, technology, and movement needs have changed throughout the years. As a result more of us have trouble falling and staying asleep. A good number of us turn to sleep aids – pharmaceuticals, alcohol, falling asleep with the TV on, doing more and more so we are “really tired”. However, these aids are often short sighted and do not help us access the deep sleep we really need. Read on to review key areas where you can shift your behavior and take control of your sleep cycle again.
Many people struggle with sleep because they negate its benefits. In our individualistic action oriented culture many people see the value of doing more over taking a break. Thus, they short their sleep in favor of getting one more item graded, one more report done, one more idea mapped out, one more treat made. In the long run this is a recipe for disaster. Your mind keeps racing with ideas as it gets trained to do more and those ideas sometimes become worries. Before we know it we’ve lost precious sleep time to thoughts, fears, and anxieties.
There are some key strategies you can do to end the cycle of not enough sleep, self medication with caffeine all day, and then being too wired to sleep well. Inevitability starting the cycle all over again.
Let’s start with the first and one of the most easy places to intervene: Time. Research shows that for the average adult 7-9 hours of shut-eye is best. That being said there are some exceptions – most of us are not those exceptions. Instead, most of us who get less than 7 hours or more than 9 have adapted to habits. Our bodies are amazing adaptions machines.
This does not mean it’s always adapting to optimal – it adapts to survival. As we shorten the time we sleep we impact the Hypothalamus – Pituitary – Adrenal axis. The body’s stress system. This impacts cortisol levels and fluctuates things like weight gain, inflammation rates, joint problems, pain levels, disease states, immunity, ability to concentrate and be productive, our ability to connect and play well with others, and energy balance needs (creating more carbohydrate cravings) to name a few. Today commit to making changes to get at least 7 up to 9 hours of sleep per night.
Below we will discuss how to do that. As I know some of you are like “WHAAAAT!?!?! How the hell am I supposed to do that?!?!?!”
One of my favorite tools to get and stay asleep, I love this ladie’s voice! Works to get to sleep and when I wake up in the middle of the night and have to get back to sleep. Jen Piercy, Yoga Nidra for Sleep – Powerful Guided meditation to fall asleep fast –
Next let’s talk about diet. What you eat all day matters. When your nutrition is depleted by poor food choices your body can not make the neurotransmitters and hormones it needs to restore itself to optimal health at night. By eating for your bio-individuality you give your system what it needs. Then during the night your body helps itself recover and prepare for your day ahead. In turn this keeps you from reaching for “crutch” foods to maintain your energy balance – sugar, caffeine, alcohol, quick carbohydrate.
These “crutch” foods can be ones that deplete the system, increase stress and inflammation on the body systems, and actually do not provide you with maintained focus and clarity you are really looking for throughout the day. Instead picking dense nutritious foods provides you with the sustainable energy while also giving your body what it needs to prepare for a good night’s sleep. When you choose foods that give you sustainable energy you are creating a positive cycle that supports your system rather than tearing it down. If you need help knowing where to start. See a dietitian or nutritionist to help you find your bio-individually meal plan.
Light and Sound
Now let’s talk about light and sound. Our physical bodies were made to respond to fluctuations in light. As the sun rises so does our cortisol helping us wake up. As the moon rises so does our melatonin helping us prepare for sleep. This system is often disrupted by things like electricity, sounds, and screens. Many of us keep our home lights on full force during the evening to help us preform tasks of daily living in today’s society. As we use this technology we have to manage it well. Start lowering your lights, shut off bright ones, close curtains, lower music, TV, other sounds. This allows us to work with the natural systems rather than fight against them leading to that “2nd wind” many of us have experienced.
In addition, screens are tough on sleep. They emit a blue light that signals cortisol and “wake up” like morning light. Plus the pixels move even when they look steady to our eyes. This keeps our brains awake and paying attention. Start turning screens off about an hour before your bed time, keep them out of your bedroom, and use a blue light filter if you do need to look at them prior to bed. This time frame gives you space to build a solid bedtime routine, which prepares your body and your mind to rest.
Finally let’s talk about the body. Our bodies ere made to move. Allowing them this pleasure helps them metabolize stress chemicals, focus the brain, and just plain get tired. This prepares us for sleep. Most of us do well to do harder workouts at least 2 hours before bed time and a simple easy stretching routine 10-15 min right before bed. This helps slow the mind by lowering the breath rate, signaling the heart rate to slow, and the brain to signal time to relax to the rest of our systems. Things like a warm bath, shower, tea, cozy clothing, weighted blankets, relaxing smells, all help us get into the physical system and shift it toward sleep. Plan to spend the hour before bed winding down with these activities helping yourself crawl into bed ready to rest.
Developing a New Sleep Hygiene Routine
Routines take time to develop. Here are some ways you can build your sleep routine to help you get to sleep, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed and ready for your day – no matter what’s on your agenda or when the coffee’s coming.
Complete all strenuous physical activity 2 hours before bed.
Have a list where you can place all items you are thinking about right now. Shift your focus to getting ready for bed and being done with today. Anything on this list will be addressed tomorrow morning, so you can rest assured knowing you will take care of it. Place the list by your bed to capture any ideas, thoughts, worries that wake you up in the middle of the night, remind yourself you will deal with the list in the morning.
Begin shutting down lights, closing curtains, decreasing sounds, and light 1 hour before bed
Turn off screens. Shut off the TV in favor of paper reading items, turn off your facebook, instagram, and email. If you must look at screens, turn on your night filter to eliminate blue light.
Spray your pillow, bed sheets, room etc with a relaxing scent like lavender or chamomile.
Brew yourself a sleepy time tea, settle in with blankets and soft clothing to enjoy it.
Take a warm bath, shower, or wash your face, hands, feet with warm water to signal the brain to begin slowing down. It helps if you use essential oil to help your brain really relax.
15 min before bed time, do a simple stretching routine. It could be moon salutations from yoga, or easy movements that feel good to your body, stretching all the ones you used today. As you stretch focus on the physical sensations of letting go and resting. Use props, blankets, pillows, your bed, etc. to help your body release any tension and really let go without worry.
Walk through the house, prepare to end the day – lock doors, straighten papers, shoes, etc so you can rest well. Nothing big here, just gentle reminders that you are done for today and ready to rest. Tomorrow you can finish the dishes or wipe the floor under the wet shoes. Crawl into bed, set your alarm, and turn off any soft lighting still on.
If needed use a guided sleep meditation or soft music to help you adjust and drift off to sleep. These can be helpful if you wake up in the middle of the night, too.
If you do wake up – do not panic. Just note, I am awake right now. Write any racing thoughts, ideas, worries, on your list, remembering to remind yourself you will deal with this tomorrow and by sleeping now you are better prepared to solve those problems. Use scents, mediations, etc as needed. If you do have to get up – say to pee – keep lights low or off and move slowly. Do not even open your eyes if you do not need to. Again reminding yourself it is time to sleep now.
In the event you cannot fall back to sleep. Get up and move to another room – keep lights low/off and movements slow. Curl up and get cozy. If you have to read use paper materials and low lighting. Maybe fix a sleep tea to help your system calm. The more you worry about being awake the worse it gets as anxiety sets in and you struggle to rest. Need more ideas here’s another article with 10 ideas for getting and staying asleep.
Self Compassion with Sleep Changes
In the end … Remember it takes time to build a new routine. If you have created habits around not sleeping or getting up throughout the night it takes some time for the body to shift. About 21-30 days. By practicing your new routines without judgment toward yourself you are setting yourself up for success. Many times, just shifting how you view your routine can be helpful. Move away from negative talk and toward what is working. Start by:
Shifting your sleep time by 15 min per week toward your ultimate goal.
If the list above is overwhelming, take on one change a week
If you wake up – DO NOT panic. Just go with the flow and remind yourself you are working in a positive direction. Be gentle with yourself and your environment.
If you find too much light (if you can see your hand move in front of your eyes with them closed after lights out) or too much noise, help yourself out and get a sleep mask, ear plugs, and/or a white noise machine.
Limit all distractions – pets in your bed, kids in your bed, partners. Sometimes a good pillow or separate blankets between ya’ll is enough.
Learning to regulate ourselves is one of the most important tasks we go through in life, however most of us did not have good role models. Most of our families and communities do not regulate themselves well, and we were supposed to learn how?
Well we didn’t. We learned to yell, scream, hide, isolate, and numb instead of really learning how to feel our feelings and process through them. What makes it even harder is so many of us have experienced some form of trauma in our lifetimes. Trauma disrupts and deregulates the nervous system making it hard to be accurate about what we feel and the intensity of our feelings given our current situation, not the one from the past.
As we move toward the holiday season and all its busyness. Its focus on connecting with friends and family, and its focus on comfort (foods, drink, cozier clothing) understanding how to regulate ourselves becomes more important than ever. Here are some steps to make sure you make it through the holiday season feeling a bit more calm and focused on making those good connections rather than frazzled and numbed out. Below outlines 5 ways you can make sure you are regulated this holiday season:
Check your nervous system temperature
Food and mood
Relationships that matter
Move your body
First, you must understanding and have a sense of your own nervous system. What is it like to be in your body? Do you feel grounded most of the time? Do you feel like you are not safe in your skin? Do you feel like your bucket is always full and spilling over, or do you feel like you have a lot of room to handle whatever comes up? Some of us feel on edge a lot, some of us do not. Getting a feel for your situation will help you begin to recognize and understand yourself better. Then use grace to help give yourself a break. If you are someone who feels your bucket is always full and there is no more room, you most likely struggle with overwhelm and maybe anger or depression or collapse (avoidance, isolation, hiding from life, procrastination, etc). Even those of us who feel we have a lot of space get that overwhelmed feeling sometimes. This gives you a baseline to help you plan and figure out how much downtime, type of movement, and rest you will need.
Next, check out your sleep patterns. Are you getting enough sleep? Most research shows us the average person needs 7-9 hours a night to feel rested and ready for our day. If you have shortened this task as part of your regular routine, you are already starting with less room in your bucket. I hear people tell me all the time, “I do not need that much sleep” or “I can’t sleep that much” outside of the rare few, most of us do need that much or more. You’ve just conditioned your body to need and work on less. Not the best way to be ready for anything that comes your way. If you aren’t getting at least 7-9 hours a night, how can you get more? Can you add just 1 hour more tonight? If that’s too much add 15 minutes more per night until you reach the goal amount of 7-9 hours. Small changes help your body get into the routine, fall and stay asleep. If you are struggling to find the right sleep hygiene routine read more about that here. On the other hand some of get more than 10 hours of sleep a night. This also causes problems in our system. If you are one of those, examine why you are sleeping so much. If you are finding it is because you feel overwhelmed and lost in the world or do not want to face the world, it is time for a mental health check up. Begin to use an alarm or the light of the day to remind you to get up. It doesn’t matter if you do not get dressed or ready for the day right away, just help your body by getting out of bed, drinking some water, and doing a little bit of movement to get started and stay on a schedule.
Third, take a look at how you eat. Food and mood run together. If you are filling yourself with items high in sugar, low in nutrients it is like asking your car to drive down the street with no gas in it. You are running on fumes and are likely to feel the effects of outside stress much quicker and more intensely. Again, you bucket does not have much room for more if your body is trying to get enough fuel to make it through your daily tasks. During the busy holiday season so many of us are eating whatever is put in front of us at this party or the next. We may be holed up at home eating whatever feels good because we are stressed by the season – more people at the grocery store, the endless advertisements, and the constant barrage of what the culture says we should be doing right now. Many people put on weight over the holiday season due to stress, lack of sleep, and overeating. Pick and choose which items are important for you to eat. Do you love Christmas cookies? A special cake your family makes every year? Eat those things but watch portion sizesand how you talk to you body about the foods you are choosing. Saying to yourself “this is going straight to my hips” as you pop that cookie is not helpful and creates an internal response system that says “ok, I guess she wants this on her hips”. Make sure you are choosing foods based on enjoyment and watch portion sizes. It will lower your stress levels and help you let go of weight rather than retain it around your belly.
Finally, relationships. Many of struggle around the holidays because our relationships are difficult. Many of us want deep connections and are scared to be vulnerable enough to get them. Many of us come from families or communities where our true self may not be accepted so we shape ourselves to fit the group we are with and it feels exhausting. Some of us find ourselves in down right abusive relationships unable to set the right limits and protections for ourselves while in that person’s presence. Make sure you set the boundaries you need to be healthy. It does not mean you do not have to attend the party, but you do not have to stay the whole time. Or can you go, enjoy yourself with all the people you want to be with, and ignore or limit the time spent with the person who is emotionally or verbally abusive? This can be tremendously difficult. Partly because your nervous system is ready for the attack and sets you up to be on edge (bucket more full) which creates a need for regulation which may be food, drink, or people choices who are not the most supportive for your system and actually keep the problems going. If you are struggling to have healthy relationships, it is time to seek help. Repatterning past relationship models is possible, but can be difficult to do on your own – you are in it, making it hard to see other options. Seek help, it’s a much more supportive process when you have someone helping you work on building healthy relationships.
Lastly … movement matters. Everyday we have to move, our bodies were built for it. How much movement are you doing everyday? Many people cut back on the amount of movement they do in the winter months due to colder, longer days. If this is you how can you build movement into your environment? Some of us are just more busy. We enjoy the parties, cooking, decorating, and wrapping for festivities. If this is you, make sure you are fitting your movement into your tasks. Things like taking the stairs, parking and walking, squats between wrapping sessions, and counter pushups while cooking go a long way to keeping you on track and motivated to continue accomplishing your health goals in spite of all the extra items you’ve put on your agenda. Planning is a big deal here. If you do not create a plan and stick to it, you will have a much harder time reaching your goals. If you put it on your calendar, you are much more likely to make sure to keep your “appointment” with yourself. Here’s a full body workout you can fit in throughout your workday. This way you are done by the time the workday whistle blows and you can head off to that participate in festive events ready with one more thing crossed off your to do list.
In the end, getting through the holidays is not that much different than getting through life. As a result of extra items on your to do list and more people out and about your regular tasks may be more time consuming. Dealing with people who may not be your favorite or drive you up the wall with questions and comments you do not want to answer or respond to may result in feeling a bit more frazzled and vigilant in your skin. If you can stay focused on your health goals, keeping yourself aligned with your life vision you can make it through the holidays reaping the joys of the season and leaving the garbage behind. It just takes a little planning, a little effort here, goes a long, long way.
There is more and more research coming out about meditation on the benefits on mood, emotional regulation, ability to concentrate and focus, as well as, brain development and changes in those who meditate … for the better even as we age.
If your idea of meditation is sitting quietly, legs crossed, eyes closed, with a weird hand position – think again. There are lots of ways to mediate. One popular way is to move. During mindful movement you pay close attention to all the sensations of the body, the way your body moves in space, your breathing, and your muscles. Begin right now. Notice how your body is being held in space. Do you feel places of tension? Ease? Move your arms up, and then return to your starting position. Turn your hands over and back. Walk forward, sit, stand, turn.
As you perform these movements move slowly and pay attention. What does the area around your body feel like? What’s the sensation of the air on your skin? Notice if your body feels like it is pulsing? How far does that pulsing move away from your physical self? Where does your breath go in the body? Can you move it into places you have not paid attention to yet? Places you feel “stuck” or places of tension?
Spend 1-5min noticing these items then return to whatever activity you were doing. Notice how you have changed by taking a short break. How is your concentration, focus, mood? Make a note – mental or physical and plan to repeat maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Just know you are going to continue to practice this mindful movement.
All the time I hear people say “I just need more motivation and then I’ll be able to stick to a workout plan”. It’s not more motivation they need it’s inspiration.
I cannot motivate anyone to workout, I can’t motivate anyone not to, either. All I can do is act and support in ways that inspire others toward being their best selves. However, even that isn’t enough. People need to find their own sources of inspiration – which could be a picture, a blog, a phone call with a friend, watching another person doing the thing they’d like to do – to maintain and build their motivation.
So today, go find a thing or two that you can use each day as inspiration toward your goals to help you build and maintain your motivation to complete the mundane steps of daily exercise and healthy eating. Then get ready to use them everyday and watch your progress grow!
On this day of Thanksgiving … Remember your body! Give it the thanks it deserves by eating well, sleeping well, and moving today. Practice care and acceptance for yourself and for others. Most of all enjoy your family, friends, neighbors, or the dude sitting next to you at the bar (could be coffee or beauty 🙂 – with love and grace.
Today let go and relax. Allow yourself to find ease in your doing and be present in the work that surrounds today. You deserve the balance and joy that comes with being present to your experience and fully engaged – this is living life on fire – vibrant and alive.
I am so grateful for all of you. Those of you out there focused on your health, your wellness, and building healthy relationships are what make my work so enjoyable. Those of you brave enough to reach deep inside and find those parts of you that are wounded – then work hard to heal those wounds are what make my work so rewarding. Life isn’t always easy and I know many of you work hard to balance your life. It takes work to make your life work, and I am grateful to be on that journey with you. Thank you for giving me the honor of being part of your story.
Make today one of reverence and gratitude for all the hard work you do to maintain all the things you’ve got going on in your life. Balance takes effort and ease. Make today’s efforts easy.
What do you do when you feel stuck? Most of us, spin. We spin our wheels, gossip, complain, and continue to create situations and stories that keep us looping over and over whatever it is that has us feeling stuck. Then we give up … Or become resentful and angry. What if we could get ourselves out of that stuck feeling without blowing up our lives? Would you be willing to put the work into a simple, yet difficult strategy? Could you take an honest look at yourself and see where you are creating this problem?
When you can take an honest look at yourself it helps create a calmer sense of being. It might be hard, and will offer you an opportunity to find your center. Your personal center, not the one that others want you to have … the one you want. In addition, looking at yourself offers an opportunity to see what solutions you can provide and where you might want to let go.
So let’s say you feel stuck at work. You feel unheard, not valued, or taken advantage of. You could complain to co-workers, skip details on projects, or undermine your boss. In each case you are looking at external factors to deal with internal feelings. I will address the external parts in a moment, for now look at your own process. If you are feeling unheard, what can you do to change how you have been approaching the conversation? Can you change the way you word your requests? Is your tone or body language in need of updating? By looking inside we see where we can take our power back. We have options for how we’d like to engage in the world. From this place even if we aren’t successful, we are operating with authenticity and can feel proud of our part in the interaction.
If you don’t feel valued, how would you know you were being valued? Many of us have a particular style or need for recognition and we expect everyone else to know it…AND we don’t want to tell them. Some of us were brought up believing that if someone really loves and cares for us, they should know what we want and need. Telling them those internal thoughts actually feels like nobody cares. Well, the truth is … No one can read your mind. Plus we each enjoy different styles. It might be that my co-worker keeps trying to give me praise and due to our different styles I don’t even notice the recognition. So by looking inward you are able to determine “how would I best understand praise and recognition”? Sometimes this is all you need. Once we get to this step many of us actually start seeing all the praise that’s been there all along and we can begin to bask in it. If we aren’t seeing it, maybe we need to ask for what we want and need? Many of us struggle to ask for these items, because it is scary – what if no one responds? – well if you are feeling under valued, you are already here, might as well ask. Something different might happen.
Now if you are feeling taken advantage of, look at how you might be contributing to your own sense of being put upon. For instance, do you offer to take care of others’ work load? Do you step up to get things done, yet never expect or ask for others to take care of their end of the bargain? Do you have trouble saying no or asking for extensions on deadlines? Do you do extra work because if you don’t do it who will? These are the things that may keep you stuck in your own problem. Take a look at each situation and ask yourself what your role is? Ask “how can I do this differently?” Or “where can I ask for help?” Or say “my role here is _______”. If you are doing more than your role, look at why. How could you “give back” the parts that aren’t yours to carry? There are lots of ways to determine how to change your behaviors. When you “martyr” by taking everything on (to help, so others feel cared for, because you can, so it gets done, etc) you actually disempower others and create a re-occurring pattern where you’ll be the one expected to pick up the slack. All people want to contribute to something. Allow others space and time to do so in their own way and everyone gets to shine … and relax.
Now, I know some of you have been biting your tongue a saying, “it’s not me” and in some cases it isn’t you. You are only responsible for your half of any relationship. If you take an honest look at yourself you should be able to see what you can control, how you can change your thoughts, and what items you can drop or do differently. If you get through that process honestly you may note that the other person or the environment is too powerful. At this point you have a choice to continue doing the best you can given the circumstances or let go of this relationship, job, etc. It will be important that you take space and time to come to this conclusion. When you change your behaviors give others some time to catch up. In addition, walking away from a situation when feeling strong emotion is not usually successful. Make sure you are objective and feeling logical as you make those decisions. Not only will you be able to say you made the best choice for you, you’ll also have time to consider your options and put other plans in place.
Can you truly accept yourself? Fully accept yourself? Just as you, today, in this moment, whatever it brings? So many of us answer a big fat Loud NO. We have all sorts of reasons we aren’t good enough and plenty of ways we could be acceptable … If we’d just ____________ (Get it together). Today lets focus on what we are doing well.
In what area of your life are you proud of yourself? Really proud of yourself, not in service of your children, parents, employer, or anyone else. Where are you really proud of you, your actions, behaviors, commitment, follow though, etc.
What is a small change you can make right now, today to be a little better at this? Keep in mind sustainable change in lifestyle habits happens in small (think 10%) increments. Must be realistic within your time frame, make it specific, and measurable. This is the SMART goal principle developed by George Doran (1981). You are better off stating “I’ll eat 2 more servings of vegetables today. One at breakfast and one at dinner” rather than “I will eat more healthy today”.
How was that exercise? Easy? Difficult? Were you able to find something you love about yourself? If not, I wonder why not. I may not know you and yet, I do know if you found nothing to be proud of it’s bullshit and old learning. I have seen the under belly of human experience and still find treasures there. It doesn’t have to a huge thing. We are looking for the big AND the small things. For example I was really proud of the way I used a new skill of asking questions this morning while I was talking to my husband. This mattered to me because it helped me be more effective in my communication and if I can use this skill in one more conversation today (2) and add 10% more tomorrow (2.2 conversations) soon I will be having effective communication in more than half my conversations, and then most of them before you know it. With each interaction I will feel a little more mastery (the key to building self-esteem) and pride. As I build those I begin to approve of myself more and more, leading to more and more positive change in my life. So I’ll ask you again …
Follow the above prompts now that you’ve found your thing. If you are still stuck … Maybe that one thing to be proud of is that you don’t give up on this exercise. ?
Know that getting stuck isn’t the problem. We all get stuck. It’s staying stuck that is. The way out of the muck is to shift your thinking. It isn’t easy if you’ve been caught In a negative rut, to turn toward the positive, drop your judgment of yourself and others, and stop listening to the negative vibes of others. Commit to yourself and work on remaining in a positive frame of thought for 10% more of your day today.
If some of these words are too strong for you right now change them to make sense for you. I challenge you to consider why not use these words?
What the fuck are my emotions good for anyway?!?! If this statement resonated with you, read on … If it doesn’t read on, too.
In my line of work I meet so many people who were never taught the answer to this question. They were brought up thinking that emotions were something to be tamed, controlled, eradicated.
The idea that emotions are not intelligence is lie. Emotions are a form of intelligence. They are your first intelligence system. The one that informs the meaning making system (i.e. Thought). You can tap this larger intelligence by embracing your emotions and learning how to effectively use and express them.
The ability to effectively use and express emotions is known as self-regulation. Self-regulation is important. It helps us get through our daily routine, create intimate relationships, parent effectively, and manifest the life we want, rather than the one we were handed.
The point is not to get rid of your emotions, but to use them to your advantage. If you are asking how the heck do I do that, read on.
First you must get good at tagging your own emotional experiences. My sadness and joy will look different than yours. Know what yours feel like by following the physical sensations it brings … slow down here take time studying your own experience … many emotions have similar sensations. For example anxiety/fear have a similar somatic (body) presentation as excitement. The way to know the difference is to pay attention to what triggers it, the situation, and circumstances taking place. These become big clues to what you are really feeling (note: don’t get caught by what others tell you you are feeling. Only you will know). Begin this practice by spending time each day noticing what you are feeling, thinking, and sensing. As you take this moment internally, notice what is going on around you externally. Aim for practicing 3-5 times per day. The point of the practice is to notice, not to change anything.
Now that you have a better understanding of what you are feeling emotionally, begin to pay attention to what triggered this emotion for you. This circumstance or internal state gives you clues as to how to deal with the emotion. Did you lose something you cared about? This may mean sadness and grieving is needed. Allow yourself to feel sad for the thing you lost. Did someone cross one of your boundaries or did something unjust happen to you? This might mean you are angry and need to set a boundary, say no to something or someone, or take an action to make an injustice right. Is the physical sensation one of openness, warmth, or buoyancy? Maybe you are feeling happy, joyful, or content. Look around, notice what triggers it, and soak it up.
Paying attention to the physical sensations using mindfulness (focusing only on the sensations for a moment) allows you to neurologically wire in new neurons for experiences. In any given moment there are thousands of choices, allowing yourself a deeper understanding of the experiences you want, makes it more likely you will choose the options that support these desires – what you want rather than what you don’t.
If you spend a lot of time noticing your sadness, despair, anger, guilt, shame, etc you are telling your mind to go find more of these. This is where your attention is, therefore what you find more of. I know this isn’t easy. Everyday I work with folks who suffer from depression, anxiety, psychological trauma, physical issues that impact mental health and I know changing thoughts and behaviors is not easy. However in the witnessing of human experience I know things follow attention. When one of my clients begins placing attention on what they want rather than what they don’t, they get better. Remember sustainable change happens in small increments. Begin by placing your attention on one more positive item today then add another tomorrow.
The other thing I know is placing this positive attention on things is not meant to sugarcoat all the shit that happens in life. It doesn’t fix problems, rather it gives you more strength to deal with them as they arise. When you are dealing with things as they arise they don’t pile up and become festering wounds that get infected and impact all areas of your life.
Last thing on emotions for today. They are ALL valid and welcome. All of them. Even the uncomfortable ones. My hate informs me as much as my happy. My guilt helps me grow and my shame tells me where I need to step up, listen to myself, and how to connect to my community, should I want to. My anger sets strong boundaries so I get a stronger sense of self and more depth to the relationships I want to deepen. Can my emotions become toxic? Absolutely.
That’s why it’s so important to deal with them as they arise instead of pushing them away. If I don’t honor my anger and set a boundary my self esteem suffers, soon my shame builds, and then I might get stuck believing it will never get better … aka despair. Getting stuck in despair can lead to depression and now I’m stuck in ruminating thoughts about how horrible I am so I don’t get out of bed and my daily activities and relationships suffer. The spiral can be a slippery slope and hard to get out of.
The good news is, the same why I can go down … I can also go up. I spend a moment deepening my knowing of my joy, and because I know it better I have it more often. As a result I find more opportunities to build it, and I find myself in situations with people I enjoy who support me. My self esteem builds because I am doing things I feel confident in and the people around me are accurately reflecting me. This helps build my personal sense of self authentically and congruently (with how I too see myself). Now I’ve got a stronger sense of self, take on new challenges, and begin to engage in life more fully and more inspired.