“Never pull away suddenly from a negative thought or experience. Stay with it until you are indifferent to it or until it turns beautiful. Look at it, love it, then let it go.” ~ Thaddeus Golas, Author
Have you noticed that you intensely remember a bad experience from years ago, but the pleasure you experienced last week is easily forgotten? This isn’t just a matter of long-term or short-term memory. Instead of taking in the good, our brains are hardwired to remember painful or bad experiences, as a way of protecting us from possible harm in the future. If we get anywhere close to repeating something disturbing, our brain sends us down the rabbit hole of negativity, to keep us safe.
The brain learns from our experiences and how we process or “file” them. Think about how you’ve been “filing” every experience in your life. If you’re like most people, you tend to see the bad in them, so your brain files them into one of your over-stuffed negative files, like your “Resentment File”, “Grudge File”, or “Self-Doubt File”. Some examples:
- A confrontation with your spouse made you feel bad, so anytime disagreements arise, you get angry and defensive, because you don’t want to feel powerless again.
- A snake scared you, so every time you see a snake your skin crawls.
- Your neighbor, Stephanie, hurt your feelings, so every time her name is mentioned your brain retrieves resentful feelings.
Was there any good in these experiences? Probably. However, you didn’t see it or you resisted taking in the good. In all of these cases, your brain only retained a snapshot of negativity and erased the rest of the whole picture, which included a lot of good that could have brought you happiness.
Whereas, if you change the way you process your experiences and lean toward mindfully savoring the moment and taking in the good, you’re telling your brain to file them in your “Happiness File”, or “Gratitude File”, or “Love File”. Instead of automatically dumping each experience in one of your negative files, you’re teaching your brain to see, enjoy, and use the good.
“Everything that is created begins in the mind.” ~ Ruth Fishel, Author
An effective way to rewire your brain is to use the H.E.A.L practice coined by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. In his book, “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence,” he explains a process for deliberately and mindfully taking in the good. Here’s how this acronym works:
Have a positive experience in real time or as a recent memory, like when Stephanie took care of your dog while you were away on vacation. Feel the good emotions that go with it – pleasure, contentment, joy, etc.
Enrich it. Stay 15 to 20 seconds with your positive thought with a broad, open body, mind and spirit. Enhance and expand that good feeling by experiencing what it feels like in your body. Do you feel light? Warm? Safe? Loved? What other pleasant sensation do you notice about the experience?
Absorb it. Mindfully let it sink into your body, mind and spirit. Breathe with it and stay soft and open.
Link positive and negative material. Briefly recall a negative experience that you want to rewire, like when Stephanie hurt your feelings. Bring forward the positive, enhanced, absorbed memory, while keeping the challenging moment in the back of your mind. Let the two mingle together, until the positive takes on more importance and then anchor this new resourceful state. The next time you talk with Stephanie, you’ll feel a profound shift within yourself, because you’ve made this transitional link.
As you practice savoring the moment and taking in the good every day, you can turn your experiences, into lasting inner strengths, such as resilience, balance, and self-compassion. Remember that practice involves using your new skill repeatedly. If you’d like guidance and accountability on your journey toward a more positive outlook, please contact me for an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to meet you!
“If you want to choose the pleasure of growth, prepare yourself for some pain.” – Ritu Ghatourey
Do you remember having growing pains when you were young? They weren’t pleasant were they, but who would want to stay the size of a baby? That’s just part of growing up.
However, what most people don’t recognize is that we continue to have growing pains – emotional, mental and spiritual ones – throughout our lives. However, discomfort now becomes our choice – we can avoid it, endure it, or embrace it. It’s no longer automatic.
Since our brains are hardwired to avoid pain, we often choose to avoid discomforts rather than embrace them. As a result, our personal and professional growth can become stunted.
What are some attitudes that people adopt to avoid the discomfort of growing?
- I’m happy where I’m at.
- I want to take it easy.
- I want to be comfortable.
- I don’t want to do that because it makes me uncomfortable.
- It’s too hard.
The trouble with staying in your comfort zone is that you can become self-absorbed, complacent, or easily bored. And if you have a creative nature, you’re going to be miserable.
Learning to be comfortable with discomfort is one of the most important skills you can develop. It’s how you’ll live a full and purposeful life. As Jean Shinoda Bolen said, “When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”
But why is growing emotionally, mentally, or spiritually so uncomfortable? Because it involves taking a risk. Letting go of control. Venturing into the unknown. But that’s okay. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.
When you regularly seek out fresh experiences, you become more creative and emotionally resilient. It makes you stronger and more confident as you see each success and conquer each hurtle. Can’t you look back and remember things that used to make you uncomfortable, but you can now do with ease?
How do you embrace discomfort?
- Develop a craving for something more in your life.
- Resist the pride of perfectionism.
- Be willing to make “mistakes” and see them as learning experiences instead.
- Deliberately seek out things that push your limits.
- Stop avoiding what’s hard.
Oftentimes you have to expand your understanding to overcome obstacles in front of you – understanding yourself, others, or how things work. It challenges your mental skills. But your brain is like a muscle and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Conversely if you don’t stretch it, it will become flabby.
Make time for continual learning. Try a new language. Take a mindfulness course. Start a new hobby. You can tackle any project you set your mind to. As Calvin Coolidge said, “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”
If you make a practice of welcoming discomfort, your comfort zone will expand to include and embrace discomfort as a natural part of living. Then you can have a similar attitude to American writer Jonathan Lethem, “Discomfort is very much part of my master plan.”
Most things seem impossible until you do them. Remember that others have felt just as you do and they were able to push beyond that feeling. So can you.
Sometimes it helps to have someone coach you through a big growth spurt. If that’s where you’re at, I’d love to partner with you so you can more easily embrace discomfort. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
Have you ever bared your feelings to someone you trusted, but they responded with a dismissive or judgmental response? Perhaps it even caused a rift in the relationship that has never healed?
That rejection can cause a life-altering pain. In order to avoid experiencing that pain again, you may adopt a people-pleasing behavior. You hide your feelings, needs and opinions, so they won’t be trampled on again. And over time you find that your inner strength has seeped away. You can’t even say “no” when you need or want to. Instead you remain quiet and acquiesce; silently berating yourself because you wish you could stand up for yourself.
Perhaps this is how you’re feeling right now. Painful life events can give you a double whammy – the initial pain and then a lingering unresolved hurt that actually redefines who you are and robs you of your power. Would you like to become more assertive as you restore your inner strength and reclaim your authentic self once again?
Let’s first examine some situations that can destroy your inner strength and rob you of power. It can happen…
- When someone says something negative, critical or judgmental about you and you remain silent or mentally agree.
- When you shift into a reactive mode and you don’t give yourself time to think and be who you really want to be.
- When you stay so busy you don’t have time to think and process life.
- When you don’t mindfully and daily reflect on what’s important to you.
- When you’re emotions are out of control or you’re discouraged and depressed.
- When you’re not getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise.
- When you isolate yourself and aren’t making meaningful connections.
All of these manifest a lack of self-love, which drains your inner strength. But you can restore your self-worth! When you retrain your brain, you’ll be able to access your inner strength and power again.
How can you replenish your inner strength and reclaim your power? Here’s a practice that can help you reconnect…
- Close your eyes and become fully aware of your breathing and your body sensations.
- Breathe deeply from your belly until your body and mind relaxes.
- Now, think of the last time you gave away your power and scan your body, noticing where you feel tense.
- Welcome whatever emotion arises and accept it with kindness.
- Ask yourself, “What past story is this emotion connected to?”
- What happened then is not your reality today, so tell yourself, “I release you,” and let it float off into the sky.
- Open your eyes and shake it off.
- Do a few somatic movements to discharge any lingering self-limiting beliefs.
- Now bring awareness to your core, and connect to all that empowers you – your strengths, talents, resilience, and good qualities.
- Focus on these empowering thoughts to restore your self-love, inner strength and power. Be convinced you can do and be anything you want.
A consistent mindfulness practice gives you the inner strength to turn toward your feelings with acceptance. When you quit ignoring and fighting them, something will shift within you. You’re self-love will reassure you that you are worthy. You are loveable. You are valuable. You do have people who care about you. You do have a meaningful purpose in life. When you feel empowered in this way, you’ll be able to stand up for yourself, speaking your truth.
If you’d like a guide to restoring your balance, please, download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. It will help you identify the areas that most need your attention right now and what you can do to bring healing and empowerment to your life.
Are everyday challenges and demands making you feel stressed out? Take a moment and just breathe, because I’m going to share a secret with you that is guaranteed to make your day and life better.
It all begins with asking yourself, “What am I grateful for today?”
Did you know this simple question is powerful enough to change your brain’s chemistry? It’s true! When you experience gratitude, neural circuits are activated in your brain and the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin increase, which produces a calming effect.
So take a moment and pick one thing you’re grateful for today. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Maybe your spouse brought you a cup of coffee or someone waved to you as you drove past this morning. Allow yourself to really engage in an attitude of gratitude…
Think how wonderful the sip of strong hot coffee tasted as you watched the morning sunrise. Fully experience how that kind act makes you feel cared for and valued. How you feel blessed to have a good friend. How you feel validated as a fellow human being. How you’re not alone but are connected to a community of people who love you.
Now let’s take it a step further and think about how you can express this gratitude. Could you perhaps write a note of appreciation to that special person, telling him what you appreciate and why? Can you pass on the kindness to the next person you encounter? Don’t hold it in. Pay it forward.
It only takes a few seconds, but those seconds can change your brain chemistry, your emotional state, your attitude, your mood and your outlook. It makes your whole day better.
Even better than that, the more you stimulate these neural pathways, the stronger and more automatic they become. This is an example of Hebb’s Law, which states “neurons that fire together wire together.” The more you do it, the easier it becomes to hold a grateful state of being.
If you make gratitude a daily practice, you will transform your life. Negative events will recede from your view. Sure they’ll still be there, but you won’t focus on them. Instead you’ll rewire your brain to focus on the positive. You’ll see what’s going right in your life. Even in the most difficult situations, you’ll be able to find that nugget of good when you ask yourself, “What can I learn from this? When I look back on this experience, what will I be grateful for?”
Even if an attitude of gratitude doesn’t come to you naturally, with practice you can train yourself to shift your focus as you search for, discover, and appreciate genuine reasons to feel gratitude. Why not turn every situation into a mental game of challenging yourself to find one thing that’s worthy of your appreciation, and keep focused on that.
It helps to limit your exposure to negativity. If the conversation takes a negative turn, you can change the subject or excuse yourself. If the news is distressing you, turn off the TV. Tactfully let the Debbie Downers that you don’t appreciate negativity and this may actually help them to become more mindful. At the very least, you can be grateful that they no longer push your buttons.
I recommend you keep a gratitude journal and daily enter at least five things for which you’re grateful. The act of writing it down is a powerful way to shift your attitude of gratitude into overdrive. When you begin and end each day with gratitude, your whole life shifts in a more positive direction.
An attitude of gratitude is just one way to experience life more fully. Please feel free to contact me and schedule a complementary “Unlocking Your Potential” session. In the meantime, I must write in my gratitude journal…”I’m grateful for everyone who reads my blog and comments on my Facebook page. I’m blessed to have such a fantastic community of people who enrich my life.” I’ll be watching for your comments.
“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Normally, people tend to be process oriented. They write to-do lists everyday and feel like they’ve accomplished something only when they cross a line through one of the tasks. However this does little to overcome a negative attitude. To completely shift away from negativity, it’s important to become a results oriented person – someone who focuses on a desired outcome, not on a set way of getting there.
The results oriented outlook is far superior, for it gives you greater flexibility. You see the end result in your mind and you look for the fastest way to get there. You don’t get stuck when one way doesn’t work. That doesn’t matter. The result does, so you look for another way to make progress.
A results oriented outlook also fuels your passion. You really want the end result, so your energy level rises. The anticipation of the result makes the process enjoyable, even if an individual task is difficult or unpleasant. This can be illustrated by something Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness. To paraphrase his experience:
When he was still a novice at Tu Hieu Pagoda, he had to wash all the dishes for over 100 monks. They had no soap. They only had ashes, rice and coconut husks. The water was freezing cold, so he had to heat the water over the fire.
Today we have comfortable kitchens, hot running water, liquid soap, and special scrub pads. It’s so much easier. It should be a pleasure to wash dishes. In no time you can finish and sit and enjoy a cup of tea.
He said, “While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”
If we view it as a nuisance to get out of the way (a process oriented attitude), we are not alive to the miracle of life during the time that we’re washing the dishes. Thereafter, as we sit to drink tea, our minds would be racing onto the next task, hence not enjoying the moment with the tea.
However, if you want a clean kitchen that keeps your family healthy and happy (a results oriented attitude) you’ll enjoy each step that gets you closer to your objective. Wipe down the stove…that looks so good! Empty the counter of dirty dishes…wonderful! Put the dishes away in the cupboard…absolutely lovely!
Being results oriented will help you excel in whatever endeavor you choose. Here are five things to keep in mind:
Educate yourself. Don’t overwhelm yourself with all the information available. Choose the best information you need right now and avoid the rest.
Find role models. Look for the best and use their example to inspire you.
Develop mindfulness. Keep your big picture vision always in sight and daily practice awareness of what your actions, thoughts, and desires are doing to fuel your passion and move you toward your goals.
Make sure you’re in tune with your inner self. Do what you’re good at, that you love, that serves others, and that fulfills your purpose. This keeps your mind, body, and spirit in balance.
Persevere. Don’t let the Debbie Downers cause you to lose focus, but hold onto your self-confidence and conviction as you strive for excellence. Never give up!
Would you like to create more excellent results in your personal and professional life? I’d love to partner with you and you expand your leadership abilities. Please feel free to contact me to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” complimentary consultation so we can explore your options.