Studio 5 Contributor and clinical psychologist Dr. Liz Hale is here with five ways to treat yourself to a “spa of the mind.”
Often times we’re given the advice, just relax!” If it were only so easy, right? We all have busy lives and the thought of meditation and personal development, even though we continually hear bout its benefits, can seem all too daunting. I have simplified the process to ensure that we achieve the biggest bang for every minute of self-care invested in ourselves!
This really can be easier than we make it,
We have the belief that life is hard….and it is, at times. However, our thoughts and actions either support or suppress our life progression. And we are all progressing…how we “progress” is the question. Small steps and little changes can have large impacts.
The acronym B.R.E.A.K. can help us deal well with the stressors of life and be more relaxed. The first letter, B, stands for breathe.
B.R.E.A.K. To Avoid Breakdown
B: Breathe & Be
Dr. Andrew Weil reports that breathing exercises get more favorable responses from patients than anything else he teaches. The secret of breath work’s power is that it can remarkably influence and even reprogram the nervous system. From increasing energy to lowering blood pressure to improving circulation and beating anxiety, deep breathing takes the cake!
One particular relaxing breathing technique is known as a natural tranquilizer:
* Exhale completely through your mouth.
* Inhale quietly through your nose to mental count of 4.
* Hold breath for mental count of 7.
* Exhale through mouth, with “whoosh” sound for a count of 8.
* Repeat the cycle.
Now that we’re no longer holding our breath, let’s add a mantra to the mix.
R: Retreat & Repeat
When under pressure and feeling stressed over the tasks of the day, pull yourself away for a mini-break. Retreat to a favorite park bench or room in the house or office. Going outdoors is most beneficial allowing you to take advantage of a change in temperature, fresh air, and change in sights and smells. Take it all in. Allow your mind to repeat a favorite mantra or just one word, “peace.” One of my favorite mental exercises that I do nearly every day is an extremely powerful self-transformation Hawaiian technique called Ho’oponopono.
Dr. Hew Len worked as a staff psychologist for Hawaii State Hospital, from 1984 to 1987, overseeing high security unit housing male criminally insane patients. Now, to make things clear – these are the type of guys you don’t want to turn your back on. These guys committed murders, rapes, assaults and due to their degree of “insanity” were locked into psychiatric high security facility. Violence against each other and staff members were common.
Fast forward to 1987 (3 years later) wrist and ankle restraints were no longer used in this facility. Violence almost ceased to exist, only involving mostly new patients. New off-site activities were introduced to former violent patients. The spirit and order in the unit was greatly improved and eventually the whole unit was closed because there was no need. People just got improved, healed and released or moved into other non-violent wards.
This all was documented, described by multiple witnesses and personnel.
How did such miraculous change took place in the hospital?
According to Dr. Hew Len:
• He did not do any therapy or counseling with patients
• He did not attend any staff conferences on patients
• He practiced updated Ho’oponopono process on a daily basis that included accepting 100% of responsibility for everything being experienced by him.
(Zero Limits, page 142)
Dr. Hew Len improved and practiced updated Ho’oponopono process every day and this process caused the most miraculous transformation within the most challenging environment.
We carry inside us as parts of the Unconscious Mind, all the significant people in our lives. (These parts of us often look very much like Carl Jung’s archetypes.) Ho’oponopono makes it “all right” with them. The process of Ho’oponopono is to align with and clean up our genealogy as well as to clean up our relationships with other people in our lives. Think of someone in your life(or past) with whom you are not in alignment with; in other words, they continue to cause you much grief! Picture them in your mind’s eye and offer the following chant:
1) I love you.
2) I am sorry.
3) Please forgive me.
4) Thank you.
Here are my other two favorites!
The Sedona Method
Step 1: Focus on an issue that you would like to feel better about, and then allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling in this moment. This doesn’t have to be a strong feeling. In fact, you can even check on how you feel about this exercise and what you want to get from it. Just welcome the feeling and allow it to be as fully or as best you can.
This instruction may seem simplistic, but it needs to be. Most of us live in our thoughts, pictures, and stories about the past and the future, rather than being aware of how we actually feel in this moment. The only time that we can actually do anything about the way we feel (and, for that matter, about our businesses or our lives) is NOW. You don’t need to wait for a feeling to be strong before letting go. In fact, if you are feeling numb, flat, blank, cut off, or empty inside, those are feelings that can be let go of just as easily as the more recognizable ones. Simply do the best you can. The more you work with this process, the easier it will be for you to identify what you are feeling.
Step 2: Ask yourself one of the following three questions:
• Could I let this feeling go?
• Could I allow this feeling to be here?
• Could I welcome this feeling?
These questions are merely asking you if it is possible to take this action. “Yes” or “no” are both acceptable answers. You will often let go even if you say “no.” As best you can, answer the question that you choose with a minimum of thought, staying away from second-guessing yourself or getting into an internal debate about the merits of that action or its consequences.
All the questions used in this process are deliberately simple. They are not important in and of themselves but are designed to point you to the experience of letting go, to the experience of stopping holding on. Go on to Step 3 no matter how you answered the first question.
Step 3: No matter which question you started with, ask yourself this simple question: Would I? In other words: Am I willing to let go?
Again, stay away from debate as best you can. Also remember that you are always doing this process for yourself—for the purpose of gaining your own freedom and clarity. It doesn’t matter whether the feeling is justified, long-standing, or right.
If the answer is “no,” or if you are not sure, ask yourself: “Would I rather have this feeling, or would I rather be free?”
Even if the answer is still “no,” go on to Step 4.
Step 4: Ask yourself this simpler question: When?
This is an invitation to just let it go NOW. You may find yourself easily letting go. Remember that letting go is a decision you can make any time you choose.
Step 5: Repeat the preceding four steps as often as needed until you feel free of that particular feeling.
You will probably find yourself letting go a little more on each step of the process. The results at first may be quite subtle. Very quickly, if you are persistent, the results will get more and more noticeable. You may find that you have layers of feelings about a particular topic. However, what you let go of is gone for good
The Work is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, and to address your problems with clarity.
In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and a turnaround. For example, the first thought that you might question on the above Worksheet is “Paul doesn’t listen to me.” Find someone in your life about whom you have had that thought, and let’s do The Work. “[Name] doesn’t listen to me”:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
Then turn it around (the concept you are questioning), and don’t forget to find three genuine, specific examples of each turnaround.
After you’ve investigated your statement with the four questions, you’re ready to turn it around (the concept you are questioning).
Each turnaround is an opportunity to experience the opposite of your original statement and see what you and the person you’ve judged have in common.
A statement can be turned around to the opposite, to the other, and to the self (and sometimes to “my thinking,” wherever that applies). Find a minimum of three genuine, specific examples in your life where each turnaround is true.
For example, “Paul doesn’t understand me” can be turned around to “Paul does understand me.” Another turnaround is “I don’t understand Paul.” A third is “I don’t understand myself.”
Be creative with the turnarounds. They are revelations, showing you previously unseen aspects of yourself reflected back through others. Once you’ve found a turnaround, go inside and let yourself feel it. Find a minimum of three genuine, specific examples where the turnaround is true in your life.
As I began living my turnarounds, I noticed that I was everything I called you. You were merely my projection. Now, instead of trying to change the world around me (this didn’t work, but only for 43 years), I can put the thoughts on paper, investigate them, turn them around, and find that I am the very thing I thought you were. In the moment I see you as selfish, I am selfish (deciding how you should be). In the moment I see you as unkind, I am unkind. If I believe you should stop waging war, I am waging war on you in my mind.
The turnarounds are your prescription for happiness. Live the medicine you have been prescribing for others. The world is waiting for just one person to live it. You’re the one.
Examples of Turnarounds
Here are a few more examples of turnarounds:
“He should understand me” turns around to:
– He shouldn’t understand me. (This is reality.)
– I should understand him.
– I should understand myself.
“I need him to be kind to me” turns around to:
– I don’t need him to be kind to me.
– I need me to be kind to him. (Can I live it?)
– I need me to be kind to myself.
“He is unloving to me” turns around to:
– He is loving to me. (To the best of his ability)
– I am unloving to him. (Can I find it?)
– I am unloving to me (When I don’t inquire.)
“Paul shouldn’t shout at me” turns around to:
– Paul should shout at me. (Obviously: In reality, he does sometimes. Am I listening?)
– I shouldn’t shout at Paul.
– I shouldn’t shout at me.
(In my head, am I playing over and over again Paul’s shouting? Who’s more merciful, Paul who shouted once, or me who replayed it a 100 times?)
After you have turned around the judgments in your answers to numbers 1 through 5 on the Worksheet (asking if they are as true or truer), turn number 6 around using “I am willing …” and “I look forward to …”
For example, “I don’t ever want to experience an argument with Paul” turns around to “I am willing to experience an argument with Paul” and “I look forward to experiencing an argument with Paul.” Why would you look forward to it?
Number 6 is about fully embracing all of mind and life without fear, and being open to reality. If you experience an argument with Paul again, good. If it hurts, you can put your thoughts on paper and investigate them. Uncomfortable feelings are merely the reminders that we’ve attached to something that may not be true for us. They let us know that it’s time to do The Work.
Until you can see the enemy as a friend, your Work is not done. This doesn’t mean you must invite him to dinner. Friendship is an internal experience. You may never see him again, you may even divorce him, but as you think about him are you feeling stress or peace?
In my experience, it takes only one person to have a successful relationship. I like to say I have the perfect marriage, and I can’t really know what kind of marriage my husband has (though he tells me he’s happy too).
E: Eat and Evalu-ate
Here’s an area that medical doctors and psychologists don’t spend nearly enough time on with our clients. Eat and evaluate how foods make you feel. When I am feeling down, I make a concerted effort to consume more nuts and blueberries and less Diet Coke. Not only are artificial sweeteners not a diet aid, they contribute to us gaining MORE weight, and the aspartame stops production of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain.
If you want to LOOK more beautiful for a big event coming up, like a class reunion or wedding, start consuming more of the foods that help you shine from the inside out. We can escape the stress that’s internal or mental; it always shows on the outside. A make-over will not cover the problem areas we’re trying to conceal. Not only are there certain beauty foods we can list here but there are feel-good foods that not only balance your moods but boost your brainpower, as well.* (list foods)
Dr. Perricone’s Top 10 Superfoods:
1. Wild Salmon*
2. The Allium Family
Garlic, Onions, Shallots, Leeks and Chives
3. Old fashioned oatmeal
5. Ginger Root and Turmeric
6. Extra Virgin Olive Oil*
7. Nuts & Seeds*
8. Rainbow Foods
brightly colored fruits and vegetables
10. Yogurt or Kefir
A: Act Now!
I love commercials that have a call to action. When you think of calling a friend to set a lunch or dinner date, act now! When you ACT on a hunch or a thought, you propel yourself forward. When it occurs to you to look into taking up piano or music lessons, again, act now! When a funny joke hits you, act now and tell a co-worker or family member out-of-the-blue. When children are playing on the living room floor or outside on the lawn, act now! Go join them; get on your hand-and-knees and feel the grass or the carpet. Engage, be present, and play! Act now! Play is such a great escape from stress…..children remind us how to do it!
Best way to clean the mind clutter and refreshen my thoughts is to do for someone else! Think of something fun, a surprise, a silly little gift…or simply just focus on making someone’s day. Not only will others, family members or friend, hear your kind sentiments, your own inner ear also receives the benefit of kind words, shared special memories, and overall thoughts that make you smile! What we do for others binds to us, as well! (for better or worse!)
My client was sharing how frustrated she becomes with her 5-year-old daughter who talks non-stop…it makes this mom feel irritated, frustrated, and angry! Someday she has a hard time feeling loving, maternal feelings for her daughter. Her new challenge was to redirect…not just her daughter but herself! She uses the momentum of exasperation to start herself off. She says, “Ashley!! Wow, you have beautiful brown eyes! I can see them in the rearview mirror…and I love your smile! Ashley, have I told you how much I love you?? You are my Baby Girl!” (Ashley loves it when her mom tells her this!) After awhile, not only is Ashley feeling great, but her mom has softened her own heart towards Ashley, recalling those loving, motherly feelings towards her, once, again. Our own inner ear is always eavesdropping!