Start a daily rou­tine to take charge of your emo­tions

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - John Sta­ples, Bryans Road The writer is the pro­gram man­ager for War On Stress, a project of United Char­i­ta­ble, a 501(c)3 non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Now we add a daily rou­tine to guide us through the sim­ple steps that stim­u­late our brain to cre­ate new and pos­i­tive neu­ral path­ways that sup­port the brain struc­ture re­lated to our de­sired state of mind.

This daily rou­tine uses two HeartMath In­sti­tute skills. We dis­cussed heart fo­cused breath­ing in my let­ter to the ed­i­tor in the Aug. 24 is­sue of the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent. To­day I am adding the sec­ond skill, “quick co­her­ence.”

Start with heart fo­cused breath­ing and shift to quick co­her­ence.

Turn your at­ten­tion to your chest area and imag­ine that you are breath­ing in and out of your heart. Breathe a lit­tle slower and a lit­tle deeper. Af­ter a minute or so of fo­cus­ing on your breath­ing and the move­ment of your chest and ab­domen, re­call a time from your past when you were grate­ful for some­one or some­thing that hap­pened in your life. It can be as sim­ple as how you feel when your pet greets you. We want the event to have strong emo­tion.

Re-ex­pe­ri­ence the feel­ings of that event again. Feel what you felt, see what you saw. Hear what you heard. Al­low your­self to feel the in­ten­sity of those feel­ings again now. Sus­tain those feel­ings. When your thoughts wan­der, bring your at­ten­tion back to your breath and your chest area and re­turn to re-ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the pos­i­tive emo­tions you were fo­cused on be­fore. Stay with this as long as life al­lows, but for at least 20 sec­onds.

That is it. You now know the two mindfulness skills needed to prac­tice the fol­low­ing daily rou­tine.

Set an alarm to go off at least eight times a day. Check your emo­tional state in that mo­ment. Am I frus­trated? Am I fo­cused on neg­a­tive thoughts? Am I hav­ing a “mo­ment” of joy and bliss? Am I bored, or un­en­gaged?

If you are feel­ing pos­i­tive then in­stall that emo­tion us­ing quick co­her­ence. If you are in a neg­a­tive mind state, use quick co­her­ence to shift your fo­cus to the pos­i­tive event you se­lected to use with this tech­nique.

Shift­ing to a pos­i­tive mind state al­lows our phys­i­ol­ogy to stem the flow of cor­ti­sol and re­place it with DHEA, the “vi­tal­ity” hor­mone which re­stores bal­ance to our mind body sys­tem. By re­peat­ing this ex­er­cise over and over through­out the day we are train­ing our phys­i­ol­ogy to sup­port a pos­i­tive mind state and to cre­ate neu­ral path­ways to main­tain that pos­i­tive mind state.

Ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for how we feel is key to this prac­tice. No one can make us feel any­thing. How we per­ceive events de­ter­mines how we feel about them. If some­one is rude to you, you have many pos­si­ble choices of how to re­spond. You can choose to feel bad, good, neu­tral or some­place in be­tween. Now you know that it is up to you.

When­ever “trig­gered” by some­thing or some­one, we shift our fo­cus to our breath­ing and the move­ment of our chest and ab­domen. Af­ter a few breaths we use our “grat­i­tude event” to re-start the growth of neu­ral path­ways that sup­port that pos­i­tive mind state. We di­min­ish the neg­a­tive and choose to ig­nore the “trig­ger” and re­in­force a pos­i­tive state of mind.

This prac­tice, if fol­lowed daily, will cre­ate what the HeartMath In­sti­tute calls a “choice point” — an in­ner pause that al­lows us to be in charge of our emo­tions and pre­vent our phys­i­ol­ogy from hi­jack­ing our emo­tional re­sponses. In time you will change from a “re­ac­tive” emo­tional life to a “ra­tio­nal choice” emo­tional life.

Take ad­van­tage of what you have learned about your phys­i­ol­ogy and stress. Make this daily rou­tine part of your life from now on. When you stop be­ing mind­ful in the mo­ment and lose con­trol of your mind state, your phys­i­ol­ogy will take over and es­tab­lish the neg­a­tive state it be­lieves keeps you safe. (Re­mem­ber the neg­a­tive bias?)

Let the “why is this hap­pen­ing to me” go. Ac­cept what is. Live your life in the mo­ment. Now is the only time you have any power. What you choose now is what you get. It is your choice.

I have cre­ated an eight-week pro­gram which is de­signed to es­tab­lish brain struc­ture to sup­port a pos­i­tive mind state. If you send me an email (john@waron­stress.org) stat­ing that you com­mit to fol­low­ing the pro­gram for eight weeks and to write a re­view of your ex­pe­ri­ence, I will re­ply with a PDF of the pro­gram at­tached.

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