Summer typically involves holidays that take us out of our routines, and into novelty and excitement. Holidays can be stimulating and often require lots of energy.
Even on the day of my last yoga class, which was late in June, on a warm bright summer evening, I was tempted to ‘do’ something instead of going to yoga and…slow down. But I did go and once the voice of our teacher guided our poses with words like “breathe, surrender and release”, I felt a shift in my mind and body and knew I was in the right place.
Imagine using longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures to alternately take some time to slow down, to connect more deeply to our selves and others. Even children with high needs for physical and mental activity, appreciate intentionally created ‘slow-down’ times to really soak up being with loved ones, not stressed by the typically hectic pace of work and school months. They can just ‘be’ who they are in a relaxed, quiet place.
Taking time to bring awareness to the big picture of our lives, our needs, our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and values is a gift to ourselves and to others.
As we put ourselves more in the ‘observer’ role, we’re less attached to negative thoughts and beliefs, which can affect how we feel and how we behave.
Creating regular reflective times during the day and introducing a simple skill like consciously breathing to lengthen the space between ‘stimulus and response’, is a healing practice for both mind and body.
Dr. Dan Siegel, in his book Mindsight; The New Science of Personal Transformation, describes his theory of “mindsight”, as:
“a uniquely human ability that allows us to examine closely the processes by which we think, feel and behave. It allows us to reshape and redirect our inner experiences so that we have more freedom of choice in our everyday actions, more power to create the future, to become the author of our own story.”
When we begin to examine stories we’ve heard about our past, stories of ourselves, or the world, there are truths and there are perceptions. Taking time to notice and question how we interpret our lives, from the past, or moment-to-moment, requires intention and consistent practice.
One practice that might be helpful is to look for reminders to help you realize when you are lost in thought or habitual reactions. Take a few seconds to breathe in, breathe out, and remember what really matters.
Rick Hansen, Ph.D, in his book Hardwiring Happiness, describes ‘taking in the good’, the deliberate internalization of positive experiences in implicit memory.
This involves four simple steps:
1. Have a positive experience
Notice a positive experience that’s already present in the foreground or background of your awareness. Or create a positive experience for yourself. Help this become an emotionally rewarding experience.
2. Enrich it
Stay with the positive experience for ten seconds or longer. Try to sense it in your body, fill your mind. Enjoy it. Get those neurons really firing together, so they’ll wire together.
3. Absorb it
Sense that the experience is sinking into you as you sink into it. Visualize it easing you like a soothing balm. Take this resource with you wherever you go.
4. Link positive and negative material.
While having a vivid sense of a positive experience in the foreground of awareness, also be aware of something negative in the background. For example, when you feel included and liked, you could sense this experience making contact with feelings of loneliness from your past.
Norman Doidge, Canadian psychiatrist and researcher writes in his latest book The Brain’s Way of Healing, about how the brain can change its own structure and function in response to mental activity – this is the phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. Scientist’s understanding of neuroplasticity is changing the way people are looking at transforming many mental and physical difficulties. It is also a key to enhancing our day-to-day lives.
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