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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Increase your PQ

Increase your PQ*
With thanks to Rick Hanson, Ph.D., for his work Hardwiring Happiness

What's a PQ? It's your *Positivity Quotient. This isn't like the positive psychology movement AT ALL. Your PQ is a resource to be used when times are tough, when you're struggling and wanting to shift your emotional state from fear, frustration or heartache to happiness.

Happiness isn't intended to be a means to an end, as so many these days believe. Our PQ is a resource to use when we face adversity. 

Our minds tend to "default" to remembering negative events, recalling them more vividly than the positive things in our lives. This is how our brains are wired, it's how we learn and remember what causes us pain so we can keep ourselves safe. The problem is that our worlds now are filled with stress and we have to make a real effort to remember and relish the positive in order to use it as a resource.

The underlying "trick" is that we get more of what we pay attention to. If we pay more attention to the positive events that help us feel happy, we change our state of mind. That doesn't mean we ignore what's actually happened. It starts with first understanding that there are 3 ways to engage the mind:

1. Let it be. Be with the event. Be a witness to the pain and struggle. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) experiences suffering or sorrow at some point in their life. Some experience it more than others. To "let it be" is to acknowledge it without trying to change it. 

2. Let it go. Release what's negative deliberately. Once we've allowed ourselves to witness our own pain, the next step is to consciously let it go. It's like pulling weeds: we want to clear space for something better to come in.

3. Let it in. Cultivate the positive. Replace the memory of the "negative" event with positive ones related to your strengths and endurance. This way, positive events become resources to you. In this case, it's like planting flowers where the weeds were. You cleared the space and when you cultivate happiness, you're putting your energy into what you really want in that space.

The steps for cultivating the positive that Dr. Hanson outlines spell HEAL.

So, how do we HEAL from our negative events? 

Have a positive experience. Recall a time when you were happy, satisfied, content or loved.

Enrich the experience. Recall every aspect of the positive experience: how you felt emotionally and in your body, what you saw and heard, as well as any unique aspects of the experience. Really "set" it in your body-mind.

Absorb the experience fully. Savor the positive experience for 10-30 seconds, allowing it to permeate and radiate throughout your mind and body.

(This one is optional, but helpful)
Link the positive experience with a negative one so the positive experience becomes an antidote for the negative. Like the pulling weeds and planting flowers metaphor above, this step encourages you to remember both the negative and positive events around the same time so you're using the memory of the negative event as a reminder to move into the positive. Over time, the mind-body pairs the more positive feelings with the original event and brings itself to a more calm state.

Bottom line: Have happiness and Enjoy it.

Spend more time -- consciously -- remembering and creating happy moments.

Repeat daily. MANY times a day!

Let me know how it goes!

Yours in transformation,
Suzan K. Thompson, Ph.D.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How Do You Feel (in Your Body)?

How Do You Feel (in Your Body)?

Discover Magazing blogger, Gemma Terlach describes a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which included more than 700 participants from Sweden, Taiwan and Finland. (A solid cross-cultural sample!) The researchers explored where emotions register in the body and asked participants to map the physical correlates of a variety of emotions.

The intention of the study was to find out whether there is consistent "body mapping" from person-to-person. For example, when someone says they feel grief in their heart, or anxiety in their gut, is this experienced in a similar place for each of us? That's what the researchers found! This is regardless of national or cultural differences.

Those who participated in the study were exposed to stories, words, and facial expressions that prompted an emotional response. They then drew -- mapped -- where in their bodies they felt the emotions. While pride appears most in the head and anger tends to be felt in the chest area, HAPPINESS is felt throughout the body.

So the next time something happens and
you can't figure out how it's impacting you,
check where you're experiencing it in your body.
You can shift how you feel emotionally by shifting the sensations in your body.
Try mindfulness-based practices or any other tool in this Toolkit series, notice the effects, then take you next "right" step.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Get Back to Nature

Get Back to Nature

If you're feeling down or need a shift in perspective, why not spend a little time getting back to nature? 

Recently, I was talking with my 21-year-old nephew about what he does in his spare time. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he loves to go hiking and camping. He said he tends to sleep better than he does in his own home AND he has THE BEST dreams!

Which made me think about how little we're in contact with nature these days, yet how healing it can be to connect with it. Each morning, I walk my dog around my neighborhood. My favorite place is a road that winds around a little lake. It transports me beyond the city I live in and into another dimension. (At least until my dog spies a squirrel or another dog and then I'm right back into the here-and-now!)

A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of earthing. The website and book (see present information based on research that shows just how much we are positively affected by connecting -- literally! -- to the earth and nature. These days, we're buffered so much by rubber-soled shoes and other non-organic material that we've lost an intimate connection with the earth. And what an amazing connection this can be!

Just 15-20 minutes of direct contact (think: going barefoot) with the earth, our immune system is bolstered, our moods can change for the better, we sleep better and we're more vibrant overall. Spend more time and the effects increase, too.

Here's an article I discovered:

Nature Nurtures Creativity After Four Days of Hiking
Dec. 12, 2012 — Backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature disconnected from electronic devices, according to a study by psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas.
     "This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn't been formally demonstrated before," says David Strayer, a co-author of the study and professor of psychology at the University of Utah.

More good news:
Just LOOKING at a photo of nature can have similar effects! So, if it's too cold or wet or hot outside, consider pulling out your favorite photo of your favorite place in nature. It can work wonders!

Notice how you feel after spending 15-20 minutes connecting with nature and bring its natural, vibrant energy back with you to your current situation. What has changed?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Journaling for Transformation

Journaling for Transformation

 Becoming more authentic and aware of what we are thinking and feeling requires change. Change takes work and it is through self-examination and reflection that we can make sense of the situations we face and information we access. Journaling just 20 minutes daily has many positive benefits; if you want to use it to tackle a difficult situation you’re now facing, try the following approach:

Use a “What? So What? Now What?” model of exploring the events of your life to access the wisdom of the connection between your head and your heart:

What? = What happened? What was the event that you experienced? What did someone say or do?

So What? = How did the situation/event affect you? What thoughts/feelings/reactions are you left with? What else does this remind you of?

Now What? = Focusing on your actions or beliefs or feelings, if you could replay the event/situation, what would you change? What did you learn? What was the good that came from this?

Writing about your experiences can be helpful and healing. AND, there's new research that shows how to edit your personal history which leads to more healthy coping in the end.

Don't have a journal? 

Don't worry! 

It doesn't take much. Open a document on your computer and just start typing. Or, take a notebook and start writing. You might be surprised at the results.

Let me know what you discover.

Dr. Suz

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Just One Thing

Just One Thing
To transform your current situation, really,
only one thing has to change for it to be different.
What is ONE THING you can do, think, or feel differently?
It needs to be something YOU (not someone else) can do, think or be.
DO (think or feel) that one thing now!

Rick Hanson has a new blog and e-letter that highlights this strategy.

Rick's book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom serves as the inspiration for his more frequent writing in the blog and his new book, is a compilation of (get this -- sound familiar?) 52 different practices for assisting you with reaching a deeper sense of well-being and resilience.  

Transformation has many different voices and avenues. Choose just one that suits you IN THIS MOMENT.

Let me know how it goes!


Suzan K. Thompson, Ph.D., LPC