Last updated on June 1, 2021
This is not about ‘brightsiding’ – attempting to force silver linings before getting out of the storm or even finding a hat, raincoat and/or umbrella.
And it’s not about ‘toxic positivity’ – where an effort to minimise actual negative experiences and feelings in an effort to only feel good not only hurts enormously but also means missing out on the WISDOM and LESSONS pain has to teach us about whatever needs to change in our lives.
Still, while we’re wired towards a negativity bias (better to mistake a twig for a snake than a snake for a twig), this creates a lot of stress and anxiety in modern life and, as modern neuroscience shows us (you might be interested in Professor Elaine Fox’s delightful Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain), we CAN change this bias.
Here are a few quick self care coaching tools you can use. Notice what resonates for you and what works best for you (so maybe just choose ONE) and build on it rather than overwhelming yourself.
We can recognise unhelpful thoughts and choose whether or not to believe them at any moment.
Obviously, this is simpler than it is easy – depending on how entrenched the negative thoughts are, the neural pathways will be strong and take repeated determined action to gently bring your mind towards a friendlier, more helpful thought.
With time and practice (and a lot of self compassion and patience) you’ll find the new neural pathways of the more helpful thoughts getting stronger.
Byron Katie’s The Work offers a super simple and effective process for questioning our thoughts and finding peace and freedom.
When I was a child, teen and in my 20s, a regular default thought was the painful, ‘I hate myself and want to die.’
I’d felt it for so long, I couldn’t imagine NOT having that default programming running in the background of EVERYTHING I did. Yet life was often good, too.
When I see pics of me looking happy back then, I’m always surprised because I remember the pain more readily than all the good stuff. It was an exhausting way to live.
I SO wish I’d known what I know now about CHANGING rather than just recognising unhelpful patterns, thoughts and beliefs.
Affirmations were a great idea but terrible for me because they only highlighted how distant the gulf was between how I felt and how I WANTED to feel.
You can access several free ones HERE
Mindfulness, of course, is another simple and effective tool to help us get into the habit of noticing the wandering mind – we’re HUMAN. It doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong – and gently bringing the awareness back to the breath (or whatever you’re using as the focus for your practice).
Ultimately, it helps us rewire the brain (with time and practice strengthening the areas associated with better mood and feelings as well as instant benefits for concentration, decision making and relating to others).
You’re reading this using your mind and our society has a strong bias towards the cognitive AND working with the body and breath offers an enormous short cut.
It’s MUCH easier to break an unhelpful thought pattern by standing up and literally embracing your inner Taylor Swift and shaking it off than it is to THINK ourselves happier, more worthy, more lovable, ENOUGH etc.
This is because of the Vagus nerve. It offers a shortcut as 80% of its signals go up from the body to the brain. So by moving or breathing in a way that brings you closer to how you want to feel (you can access free videos and choose different moods to harness HERE), you’re sending signals straight up to the brain and THEN those good feelings cascade down through the whole system – you can read more about Polyvagal Theory and simple ways of anchoring ventral vagal wellbeing HERE
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) offers another way to bring the body in, tapping around the face and upper body while acknowledging the thoughts we want to release.
Chair Pose is a quick and simple way to connect with the body’s strength, ground and connect with the heavens (while burning off excess stress hormones and honouring the natural fight/flight impulse when stressed, anxious or triggered).
Here’s a quick video:
And, of course, Power Poses and a simple (strange) but effective Grounding and Centering Dragon’s Tail technique to help you embody all the love you’ve ever felt (or can even imagine) while taking pride in all you’ve survived and accomplished.
Brahmari, another pranayama (yogic breath practice) helps to lift the mood and improve memory as well as reducing ruminating thoughts. You can watch a simple Brahmari video HERE
Metta (Loving Kindness) meditations offer a great way to bring our thoughts back to something more helpful (wishing ourselves and others well rather than spiralling) and we can include the ‘negative’ parts of ourselves, too.
Self compassion is essential and we can soothe our self talk (and support ventral vagal wellness) with what I call Cat Coaching
It may sound silly, but often, even if our own self talk is harsh and punitive, our inner critic gets a rest when we talk to a beloved cat, dog, baby, lizard etc. We recognise the wonder in their efforts even when they don’t get things right first time.
Our tone of voice is ESSENTIAL, in Polyvagal Theory and, with practice, we can internalise this friendlier more appreciative inner voice with ourselves as well as the things and people we find it easier to be gentler with.
Coregulation is key, too – talking and even just BEING with (to whatever degree public health guidelines allow) a trusted loved one or therapist or animal.
Begin building your circle of people who help you feel safe, welcome and loved.
If reading this makes you sad, CONGRATULATIONS. Recognising that you need – and deserve – MORE of this in your life is an important step in setting healthier boundaries with people you already care about while being curious about who you don’t yet know.
Journalling can also be incredibly helpful.
Ask for guidance, pray, connect with nature. LISTEN to whatever your soul is attempting to whisper.
How might this problem be trying to help you at a soul level? What strengths and skills are you developing as you deal with whatever you’re dealing with?
And I know crystals aren’t for everyone but they can be a wonderful way to anchor that soul soothing support. You can find out more about how to choose, cleans and use them HERE
This simple energy clearing meditation is quick, easy, effective and, in my experience, life changing as we consciously clear the inauthentic energies and instead create an energetic space in which our and others’ Miraculous Selves can flourish. You can access a simple version HERE
Access additional support
Obviously, self care includes making the most of modern medicine and science and seeing your GP to rule out things you might not be aware of yourself and to access additional support.
And if you’d like more support from me, you might be interested in the weekly live self care coaching calls for the Feel Better Every Day online membership programme where, each week, we focus on mind, body, heart or soul and you can access resources at your own pace if you can’t make the live call/s.
And, of course, the book, 365 Ways to Feel Better: Self-care Ideas for Embodied Wellbeing (White Owl, 2017) has lots of simple self care ideas which you can pick at random of choose from the index (or work through day by day).