Your back aches, your coffee’s luke warm, or you fall behind schedule.
There are myriad things that can and will go wrong every single day of your life. (And hey — there’s also plenty that goes right, so keep track of that, too.)
Many of us allow one sour moment to spoil what would have otherwise been a perfectly sweet day. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are simple — really simple — ways to keep your stress in check and stop agonizing over the inevitable.
“We’re living in a society where we think the answers have to be really complicated,” says Kathy Gruver, Ph.D., author of “Conquer Your Stress With Mind/Body Techniques.” “We tend to complicate our own lives, but things can be ridiculously simple — and still work.” The next time there’s a bump in the road, remember a few of the mental tricks below to help yourself smoothly redirect back on course.
Just. Stop. Thinking. About. It. Certain pain, like an aching back, feels impossible to ignore. But agonizing over what hurts won’t help you to feel any better. Instead, you’re just suffering twice (once in your head, once in your back). “You have the choice to think about something else,” says Gruver, which is a somewhat shockingly simple truth. Just. Stop.
Focus on the breath.
“Breathing is so cool because it happens automatically and it’s something we can control,” Gruver says. Breath concentration works anywhere and it gives you something positive to focus on. Gruver suggests thinking “I am,” on your inhale and “at peace” on your exhale. This technique it powerful: It overrides negative thoughts and redirects your focus. “It’s hard to stop thinking things, but it’s easy to replace those thoughts with something else.”
Don’t beat yourself up if stress-inducing thoughts creep their way in.
It’s normal and natural for this to happen, but judging yourself for it sort of defeats the purpose of the practice. Gruver says to dismiss these thoughts without judging yourself for having them, and carry on.
Visualize something that doesn’t make you anxious.
“Visualization gives you control and can help decrease your pain.” Visualize anything from your favorite vacation spot when you’re feeling on edge to your body actually healing itself when you’re experiencing physical pain. “The more real you can make it, the more it’s going to work.” The doctor herself visualizes a “little construction worker” moving around her body, working to mend and heal her whenever she feels achy or sick.
Use cues to remind you to be mindful.
“Mindfulness isn’t about setting time aside and sitting on the pillow for meditation,” says the practitioner. “Mindfulness is about making your everyday activity a meditation.” There are times when the practice of being mindful seems to slip our minds, and we get caught up in the heat of the moment. In these cases, it can be helpful to use “mindful cues” to bring us back to center. Whether it’s an alarm on your phone, an app that reminds you to breathe or even the laugh of your colleague that you choose to associate with being present, setting these little reminders will prevent the chaos of the day from becoming too much to bear.
Rely on a someone you trust.
When you want to start making changes, ask a confidant to be a gentle reminder. If you want to stop complaining about your boss, mention it to someone you’re close to. He’s more likely to catch — and stop — you in the act. It’s a system that’ll keep you in check when you react to a stressful situation rather than respond to it.
reblogged from The Huffington Post
The power of positive thinking.
How many times have you heard that phrase thrown around? It’s so much a part of our vernacular now that it’s almost become meaningless. We’d all agree that thinking positively is a good thing. Especially when we’re feeling positive. When you’re feeling good, how much trouble is it to think, “Hey, I like me. My life is cool. Things are going great.”
But what about when things are crappy? What about those days when you’re so stressed the veins pop out of your forehead? When you hate your job — or you’ve lost it? What about those days when you are sucker-punched by a series of unfortunate events that makes the life of Job look like a garden party?
I’ve met people who remain perky during really bad times. And to be honest, they make me want to slap them around a bit. That Pollyanna, “life is still beautiful” attitude when things are falling apart just yanks my chain. However, I’ve come to learn that these people know something I don’t.
Here’s the secret that’s not really a secret. It’s revolutionary, exciting science.
Positive thinking really does change your brain. Not in some magical, woo woo kind of way, but in a real physical way.
The science is called neuroplasticity. It means that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains. The idea was first introduced by William James in 1890, but it was soundly rejected by scientists who uniformly believed the brain is rigidly mapped out, with certain parts of the brain controlling certain functions. If that part is dead or damaged, the function is altered or lost. Well, it appears they were wrong.
Neuroplasticity now enjoys wide acceptance as scientists are proving the brain is endlessly adaptable and dynamic.
It has the power to change its own structure, even for those with the severe neurological afflictions. People with problems like strokes, cerebral palsy, and mental illness can train other areas of their brains through repetitive mental and physical activities. It is completely life-altering.
So what does this have to do with positive thinking and with you?
It means that repetitive positive thought and positive activity can rewire your brain and strengthen brain areas that stimulate positive feelings.
In “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”, Norman Doidge M.D. states plainly that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself and/or form new neural pathways — if we do the work. Just like exercise, the work requires repetition and activity to reinforce new learning.
Here are some actions you can take to change your own brain during the bad times.
Fear of failure.
Everyone fears doing something new because we don’t wait to fail. The truth is, we can do most anything if we take action, stop negative thinking, and shift our perceptions of the truth about our abilities.
Action steps: Force yourself to stop thinking about reasons you can’t do something, even if you don’t feel brave or capable. Every time a negative thought creeps in, retrain your brain to think a positive thought about your abilities instead. Then take small actions every day toward achieving your goal or desired change. Nike’s slogan, “Just do it,” has real validity.
Have you ever found yourself trapped in obsessive over-thinking about a problem or in a state of anxiety or worry that lasts for days or even weeks? It drains your energy, affects your sleep, and spirals your mood and outlook on life. Focusing on your problem only strengthens the worry function in your brain.
Action steps: When you find yourself in that cycle of worry or compulsive thinking, remember the three R’s — rename, re-frame, and redirect. When the worry begins, mentally yell “Stop!” Rename the issue by reminding yourself that worry isn’t real. Rename it as a compulsive reaction, not reality. Re-frame your thinking by focusing on positive or distracting thoughts, even if you still feel anxious. Force yourself to think different thoughts. Redirect your actions. Go do something uplifting, fun or mentally engaging. The key is following these steps repeatedly, every time you worry obsessively, to break the pattern and rewire your brain.
Sometimes we might feel blue or out-of-sorts, and it’s just a temporary fog that settles in and lifts after a few days. Some mood disorders, like depression or serious anxieties that morph into phobias, can be debilitating and unrelenting. Psychologists and therapists have used treatments based on neuroplasticity to get to the cognitive root of these disorders and put a patient’s life back on track.
Action steps: A serious mood disorder or phobia requires the help of a trained counselor. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment that helps people learn how to identify and change destructive thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and feelings. If you suffer from severe anxiety or depression, you need someone skilled to help you get to the root of these thoughts and to show you how to change them. Ask them about CBT.