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Tips and Tools for taking charge of your mind
There are so many ways you can take charge of your mind to get the most out of life, we can only give you the very tip of the tip of the iceberg here...If you'd like the whole berg, right to the ocean floor, check out our book!
We'll add more tools here from time to time, and remember to check out the lighter side with The EHP Blog as well.
Index (click headings to jump to tips)Moods are like Measles
Habits are shortcuts in our thinking and decision-making, which when used wisely ease our way through life. It would be pretty boring and time-consuming if we had to think about every little thing in our routine! But every now and then, a sneaky little (or big) not-so-good-for-us habit might claim squatters rights in our unconscious and cause a few tenancy issues.
One of the most common culprits in keeping us in those old patterns is the language we use. If you've read the other tips, (or our book!) you'll know that minds can only process positive statements. So if the habit you want to change is, for instance, watching 4 hours of TV every night, thinking or saying that you want to stop watching so much TV will simply reinforce your unconscious habit of...watching so much TV. The remedy is to think and talk very specifically about what you want to do instead, such as "I'm going to spend my evenings in the garden".
Your clever unconscious will start creating movies and soundtracks of carrying out your new behaviour, and your chances of easily changing the habit are now considerably higher!
Whether we are consciously aware of it or not we all talk to ourselves, either in our heads or out loud.
Is your self-talk that of an inspiring and supportive best friend, or a merciless critic? Is your inner voice all your own, or have you also been replaying or imagining unkind messages from other people?
Negative self-talk diminishes our self-worth and confidence, can create or reinforce limiting beliefs about our character and abilities, and is a major component of both depression and anxiety.
Do some on-the-spot taming of your inner voice with these simple tools:
Oscar Wilde said "Memory is the diary we all carry about with us" . Like any diary, for our memory to work we have to put information in, and be able to get it out again. Here are some hints for making - and retrieving - entries in the diary of your mind.
Remember those shopping bags!
Now that we need to take our own, the trick is to remember to have them with us. If this is a challenge for you, try one of these tips. (Of course, these principles can be used to remember just about anything.)
Where did you park?
So you've remembered your shopping bags, you've got the groceries...now, where did you park? Use the same mind-movie technique; as you walk away from the car, look back at the surroundings and create a short movie of what you'll see as you are coming back. When you return, run the movie so your brain will know what to look for.
What was it again?
When trying to recall the name of someone or something, or what it was we wanted to say, we typically start scrunching up our eyes, tightening up the muscles in our face. When this happens, do the opposite. Take a couple of deep breaths and relax the muscles in your face. If you don’t immediately remember, let it go, get on with the day and expect the memory to surface.
What do you notice first when you meet someone? Is it the way they look? The sound of their voice and the words they say? Or the energy they give off, how they smell or how comfortable you feel around them?
If someone gives you flowers, what’s more important to you? The arrangement and colours? The perfume? The words on the accompanying card, or maybe how you feel about the person who gave them to you? Do you touch the flowers, the ribbon, the wrapping?
We all tend to have one or two senses we use more, or are more aware of at any given time. By developing our awareness of all our senses, we can get even more pleasure and joy out of Being Now. Amp up your awareness with these quick tips:
Take a few minutes throughout the day to look about you, as though you are seeing for the first time. Look at cloud formations - nature’s art in action; take in tiny details such as folds in drapes, how many greens you can see right now in nature, the grain in timber furniture or how shadows on the walls alter the paint colour. Train your eye to see more, to awaken from slumber.
Spend a few minutes here (hear) and there throughout the day turning on your ears. Tune in to the sounds which usually escape your attention. Can you hear yourself breathe? Are there bird sounds outside? What sounds do your fingers make on the keyboard? If it makes it easier, start with the thought ‘I’m listening…’ and wait, listen and notice.
Note: Kinaesthetic includes touch and every other sensation we feel with and in our bodies, as well as smell and taste.
Stop several times in your day for a few minutes and notice what you feel outside your skin. Feel the air temperature, air movement, the clothes on your skin, the shoes on your feet, any jewellery against your skin and even the hair on your head. Then take your attention to inside your skin, becoming aware of any tightness or tingling, or the feeling of your heart beating, or the pressure of where you meet the furniture supporting you. Notice the sensations of swallowing and breathing. Sit with this for as long as you like; enjoy the now. What can you smell that maybe you're so used to you've stopped being aware? Notice, really notice, the tastes, textures (and even temperatures) of the different foods you eat.
Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word right now, a sort of 'self-help de jour' as it were. Like most things in life, some people swear by it, while others say it's no use at all. So why might this be? What is mindfulness, and how is The EHP Way different?
Mindfulness is simply being mindful of our experience in the now, the present, temporarily putting aside thoughts of the past and future. Mindfulness practices commonly include being aware of emotions and body sensations, including unhelpful feelings - and simply accepting them.
Here at EHP, while we agree that sometimes acknowledging how we're feeling is all we need to do, when an emotion is being experienced longer or stronger than is helpful, it can be the very thing that prevents us from embracing the joy of mindfulness - of being now. If you relate to this, there are many ways of quickly, easily and comfortably clearing unhelpful feelings in our book - or make an appointment with Evelyn or Sylvia, and increase your enjoyment of life.
The EHP Way - Being now
Having cleared away any pesky feelings, Mindfulness the EHP Way is all about using our senses to experience the external world as well as our body sensations. By focusing on sensory experience - what we see, hear, feel, taste, smell and touch right now, we enrich our day, nourish our spirit and heighten our awareness of just how much we have to feel grateful for.
One way of Being Now
Spend as long as you like with your feeling sensations...add in any smells or tastes...if you only have five minutes, take five minutes. If you have ten, lavish ten minutes on yourself. If your mind wanders, call it back to noticing your breathing again.
Resilience is all about bouncing back better when life tosses us those inevitable curve balls, and having something in reserve to act as resistance to stress. The basis of resilience is emotional and psychological wellbeing, made up of:
Every mind tool offered on this page contributes to one or the other of those elements (and sometimes all). There is one thing that sometimes challenges all three, and that is - how to let good enough be...well, good enough:
Giving up on perfectionism
We know you’re out there - people who find it hard to settle for less than perfect, who strive above and beyond and then some. It comes as a challenge, doesn’t it, to let it go, to walk away, to see someone else do something which falls short - in your estimation! Does this add stress to one’s life? If taken to extremes, yes it does.
If this is you, you might like to try an exercise in flexibility. Leave something imperfectly done. Walk away and find a distraction. Go into observer mode and notice how interesting it can be. Smile to yourself at the diversity of human beings, along with all our similarities, our individual ways of doing things.
Try on, just for fun, a ‘that’ll do’ attitude with something that really doesn’t matter. Let it go. Look at the clouds or wonder how the newly emerged butterfly knows to fly directly to her source of food. A relaxed attitude is an element of being resilient.
Stress...we've all heard of it, most of us have felt it - and we can all minimise it. Stress is not a viral infection or a germ waiting around to pounce on us. For the most part, it's an un-resourceful response to threats or challenges - our individual, internal response to certain stimuli. Stress and overwhelm go hand in hand, coming from:
We offer you some simple ways to take charge now...
See your way out of stress
When we're stressing, we tend to be in tunnel (foveal) vision, effectively shutting down the thinking part of our brain as we go into flight or flight mode. Simply moving into peripheral vision can be a quick fix when we're on-the-go.
Get comfortable with saying 'No'
When our obligations are many and we've well and truly stacked our camel with straw, there comes a time when we need to reassess.
In his illuminating book The Gift of Fear (Bloomsbury, 1997), Gavin de Becker says "I encourage people to remember that 'no' is a complete sentence." Depending on the person and the circumstances, sometimes we might want to soften that a bit, but the essence is that what you do is your choice - you are the boss of you. It can be useful to check out the following criteria:
And remember - the person to whom you need to say 'no' might just be yourself!
Become a superhero
Never underestimate the power of posture!
Stand in the Superhero pose, with feet apart, body erect, hands on hips with shoulders and elbows back, chin up and looking up - above eye level. You might imagine your cape flowing out behind you! Take four rounds of breathing in fast – to the count of two, then very slowly out for a count of ten (or as close to ten as you can get). Feel yourself being the Superhero who is in control and who can manage the situation you have in mind.
Is your spark at risk of fizzling out? Like anxiety, depression comes in many shapes and sizes - from feeling a bit 'down' through having a case of the 'why me?', to enough is enough with a system shut-down. We offer you some tips for boosting both your morale and your resilience.
Jump-start your system
When we’re feeling depressed, the autonomic nervous system is out of balance. The parasympathetic branch of the system is over-active, dulling down our responses and prompting us to withdraw from stimuli. Our whole system slows down and it’s no wonder we can’t get motivated.
We can get ourselves moving by giving our system the breathing equivalent of a jump-start. It takes just a couple of minutes.
Use this jump-start even before you get out of bed…and any time you feel the need for more energy and focus.
Change your time focus
Wouldn't you know it, just like anxiety is time-based, so is depression - but while anxiety is all about the future, depression is all about a negative focus on the past. Give one (or both) of these a go:
Check out the Fast Mood Change below
Never underestimate how much we affect, and are affected by, other people. We can all too easily ‘catch’ states of mind from – or spread them to - others around us. We have mirror neurons designed to put us in step with each other, however, we don’t want to mirror or project anxiety, fear, anger or even the old game of ‘ain’t it awful?’, do we?
Maintaining your own state of mind
You may have heard the old joke ‘If you can keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs, you don’t understand the situation!’ We beg to differ… that’s just when you do understand the situation - the situation of being in charge of your own state.
So how do you keep your head when people around you are losing theirs? As soon as you recognise there are emotions in others you want to stay out of:
Projecting a positive state
You probably don’t want to be one who sets up a state which may influence others to feel less than wonderful. If we’re not mindful of how we are thinking and feeling, it’s easy to go around spreading vibes for others to pick up and feel, well, not so great. It’s a bit like having measles and walking around spreading it to whoever gets close enough.
Parents are in a strong position to influence how children feel and act – if parents are tense, anxious, angry, it will affect children in the home. Even our pets are influenced by our habitual emotions – for richer or poorer.
Fast mood change
You've probably noticed that when someone is feeling down, their face and body often match the feeling - their posture may be slumped and heavy looking, and they look down a lot.
“Feeling down” is very real. And “things are looking up” is also very real. One of the fastest ways to change how you’re feeling is to change what you’re doing.
Anxiety comes in many shapes and sizes; from butterflies in the tummy through the pounding heart and sweaty palms of facing something we'd rather not, to full-blown panic and phobias. We offer you some tips for relieving anxiety quickly and easily. The more you use them, the more effective and easier they'll become.
Be in the now
Anxiety is future-based; even if it relates to something that happened in the past, anxious feelings are produced by imagining something happening in the future, so our hot tip is: If you’re feeling anxious, you must be okay right now.
Yes, that's right - if your focus is on the future, then you must be okay right now – or all your attention would be on sorting out what’s happening in real time.
The secret is...not so secret any more! Because anxiety is future-based, when you bring your attention to your sensory experience in the here and now - what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell - you can't continue to scare yourself.
Breathe yourself calm
When we experience anxiety our nervous system goes out of balance, preparing us to flee, fight or freeze, restricting our ability to use our brainpower for anything other than our immediate survival. If there is no real threat to our wellbeing - meaning we're not being chased by hungry lions or such - we need to rebalance our system to feel calm again and regain our ability to think clearly.
Specific breathing patterns work effectively to bring our systems into balance; as well as bringing your attention into the present moment, take some time out - preferably sitting - and follow this pattern:
1. Take a few clearing breaths - long, slow belly breaths.
2. Take four breaths in quickly, to the count of two, then breathing out slowly, to the count of ten.
3. Then take six deep belly breaths, in to the count of six, out to the count of six, without pausing between the in and out breath.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 three or four times, until you feel calm, then breathe normally.
Not so keen on sorting your anxiety issues on your own? Contact Evelyn or Sylvia for one-to-one sessions in person or via Skype.