I’ve been monitoring my own state of mind throughout this busy summer, paying attention to where I experience myself on a continuum of presence and well-being; creativity and flow; discipline and productivity; pressure; stress; overwhelm. Just before I left for a recent vacation, I added self-combustion.
Having recovered a sense of presence and well-being from some idyllic hiking in beautiful mountain wilderness, I can now offer some tools for managing such a continuum of mental-emotional states, should you ever find yourself on a similar roller coaster.
1) Prioritizing presence and well-being. It’s so easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of obligations and deadlines, sometimes inevitable. Sometimes even feeling like a badge of honor – if we’re so busy and stressed out, we must be doing something important in our lives. And very often we are. We will do anything better if we come back to a sense of calm and a state of equilibrium in the body-brain first. Our brains stay more open to learning, options, new perspectives from that state of presence and well-being. Really, a practical short-cut to accomplishing many things in a short time.
2) Learning tools to return to that sense of presence and well-being. I offer many tools to recover a sense of presence and well-being in Bouncing Back. Hand on the Heart, Soles of the Feet, Mindful Self-Compassion. Many teachers, authors, workshop leaders do these days. The more we learn from neuroscience and behavioral science the tools that actually help our brains shift gears and rewire old patterns, the more choices of practices we now have available to us. Vacations work very well for most people; we can take mini-vacations many times a day.
3) Practicing the practices that work. The brain learns from repetition. The more we repeat a behavior, the more deeply it becomes installed in our neural circuitry as a new healthy habit. Checking in with ourselves several times a day, several times an hour, every five minutes when things are close to the self-combustion point, creates a moment of pause, reflection, re-grouping, and shifting gears. We find ways to switch the channel; we repeat a gratitude practice or taking in the good or tapping into a circle of support many times in a row. We can begin to catch ourselves turning to the practice without having to think about it. We are creating new patterns of response in our brain, and we begin to benefit from them.
4) Practicing mindful self-compassion anytime we forget to practice our practices or they are not working yet in the moment. It’s simply challenging to be a human being sometimes, and experiencing a sense of compassion and care for the humanness of our own humanity can go a long way toward forgiving ourselves for messing up, for not getting it perfect, and for recovering the possibility of moving forward, trying again.
5) Savoring the presence and well-being when it occurs. Presence and well-being are not simply one point on the continuum of leading busy lives. They are the natural state of our minds and hearts when we are at peace, at rest. They are our birthright, and essential to thriving in all the other states of mind and heart we experience throughout a day. When we “come home” to this natural ease and inner peace, we reset the body-brain for the next moment of effort, and can sustain many moments of effort over the long haul. Even pausing, breathing, counting to ten, offering a moment of gratitude for being alive, can give us a mini-vacation that restores our soul and renews our intentions.
May these tools be useful to you and yours. I will be teaching many of these practices in a new workshop: Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Neuroscience of Well-Being at the New York Open Center, Saturday, October 24, 2015. Please join me and pass the word along if you can.