Good Things from Traumatic Experience, Part 2: The Kindness of Others

We live in a fear-filled, finger-pointing, antagonistic, mixed-up world right now.  So says the news.  But another good thing I got out of this traumatic experience (click here for Part 1), is that even though people strongly disagree with each other and it seems there is so much hate in the world, there also is so much love and kindness out there.

 Family and friends’ help was elemental in me not going completely bonkers during this traumatic event.  Of their kindness I was already aware; I’m extremely blessed, especially with family (including in-laws!).  But what warms my heart to no end and what I didn’t expect are the many people -barely even acquaintances- that showed up, gave gifts, offered to do whatever we needed, or sent their good blessings.  In addition, (most of) the nurses and hospital staff blew me away with their generosity of spirit.  I found that I cried more tears from touching acts of kindness than from the trauma itself.

For instance, one nurse gave me a hug at the exact right moment and said precisely the right words that made me know we would get through this.  Don wasn’t even in the room at that moment so that was definitely not part of her job duties.  It was simply her being exceptionally kind.

Another instance was when I went back to work.  I had found that a project that I had left in mid-session was picked up without me uttering any request for help.  No, it was not in a steal-my-job kind of way or with a looming deadline.  It was simply him being exceptionally thoughtful by helping me out.

Other kind acts: My neighbors walking our dog and letting her hang out at their house because she seemed “lonely”; Acquaintances somehow getting my email or phone number to say they are thinking of us; Hospital waiting room staff suggesting to me to keep my (many and heavy) personal items behind their desk so I don’t have to lug them around the hospital all day.

These things all seem very small and, possibly, inconsequential.  Especially in light of the major corrupt and immoral things we hear about and sometimes experience firsthand.  But, don’t let the ego trick you!  These seemingly small things can have great effects.

I know for me the small acts of kindness made me feel loved.  They also gave me motivation to be more kind and helpful myself.  And the effects need not be for one person; the ripple effects cannot be measured.  Heard of “Paying it forward?”  Urban Dictionary defines it as, “When someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, pay it forward by doing a good deed for someone else.”  You experience a kind act, and therefore, are inspired to do a kind act for someone else and then they do a kind act and so on and so on.  A few small kind acts can easily be turned into –well, not to sound too corny but- changing the world.

Of course, there are cruel and ruthless actions all around the world.  But no matter what I read or see in the news and on social media, I know, without a doubt, that there are more kind and loving people in this world than not.  Don’t wait for a traumatic event to notice them and be one of them!

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Good Things from Traumatic Experience, Part 1: Influence & Healing

This title sounds like an oxymoron.  But, I know from a personal recent traumatic event that it is not only possible but enormously beneficial.  (More on that in a minute…)  Just as I wrote in a previous post (Positive Lists About “Bad” Situations), when we find something good in a bad situation, it helps us to not stay stuck in the awful feelings, such as, suffering, dread, anxiety, victimhood, fear, or anger.  When we feel negative emotions, it does not help anyone.  We can’t feel bad enough to make someone feel better or to make better circumstances happen for someone.  Our good feelings and actions, however, can help someone.

This I know because my husband recently had emergency heart bypass surgery.  Scary, shocking, painful, stressful, devastating, traumatizing, horrific.  For him and myself (in different ways) it was all those bad feelings and more.  But, the purpose of this series of posts is not to describe the details of just how dreadful it all was.  The point is that I got some good –I mean, really amazing– realizations out of the trauma and recognized the huge benefit of focusing on those rather than dwelling on the awfulness.

This post is specifically about the influence people have on others.  For instance, during the hospital stay, I started noticing how Don’s physical status would change based on the personality of the nurse.  If she or he was grumpy or pessimistic, he’d stay where he was or get worse.  When the shift would change and the new nurse was optimistic and lighthearted, he’d almost instantly show improvements physically and he had hope.  I was amazed –and frightened– of that power!

I soon realized I couldn’t leave his physical improvement up to a random nurse that I had no control over.  I was with him more often than not, so I had to be the upbeat, loving, optimistic, light, and happy one.  And so, that’s what I did despite feeling scared, exhausted, angry, sad, and confused.

I was optimistic about him getting better.  But I also had a general upbeat mood. Additionally, I spent a lot of time distracting him.  Nobody wants to sit around 24/7 talking about feeling better when they feel crappy!  I did everything from reading aloud to doing trivia questions and puzzles to showing videos of our dog to playing music.  What this did was take his mind off of fear, depression, and pain.

So, there are two things going on here that I realized: 1) Our emotions have an effect on others and 2) positivity and optimism –plain ol’ feeling good– promote healing.

Sidenote:  Of course, the surgery, procedures, medicines, and expertise of the medical staff all played a significant role.  Absolutely an understatement.  But, after the major procedures were finished and he wasn’t improving for a couple of days, the most significant aspect was the love, kindness, and upliftment from others.  (And it wasn’t only me; many family, friends, and medical staff were positive, kind, and helpful, as well!)

First, regarding our emotions influencing others.  Have you ever been in a room when someone really upbeat entered and the whole feeling in the room shifted?  And surely you’ve noticed the power that charismatic people have on affecting others.  It’s actually been shown that emotions are contagious.  People unconsciously take on the feelings of others, especially those closer – physically and personally- to them.  Psychologists have studied this and even termed it, emotional contagion – humans synch their own emotions with those expressed by people around them.  It is primarily a subconscious, automatic process that takes place in the brain. It’s an instinct that goes back to caveman days when humans couldn’t rely on language to communicate their feelings.  Studies have shown that people automatically mimic and emotionally synchronize with another in a matter of milliseconds.

On the second realization, there are scientific studies that confirm the link between positive emotions and healing.  It’s been known that stress has major negative repercussions on the body.  Chronic stress releases too much cortisol and adrenaline that cause immune cells to not function properly.  On the flip side, it has also been found that positive emotions decrease these stress hormones and boost the immune system.  The positive, good-feeling emotions release endorphins -natural chemicals in our bodies- which enhance the immune response.

Interestingly, during the trauma, a part of me (ego) had felt guilty for being upbeat and positive.   My ego said I should be serious and show concern!  To the ego, it appeared like I didn’t care because I didn’t outwardly show worry.  Having these studies surely helps me now to know the ego’s way is not better for anyone.

Volumes can, and have been, written about these two phenomena.  The scientific studies validate what I personally saw before my very eyes and also assuaged my ego.  These are unquestionably invaluable and useful points to have gotten from a traumatic event.

Don has since told me that he really picked up on the strength, love, and joy I emitted and that it gave him hope.  Nice to have that personal validation, as well.

Postscript: Please know, if someone doesn’t improve physically, it does not mean it is our fault or because we weren’t “upbeat” enough.  Everyone has their own free will.  We cannot force someone to heal.  We merely offer the help and it is their choice what to do with it and there are countless factors that go into that personal decision.

Focus on the Many Things You Like (Not the One Thing You Don’t!)

The title of this post really says it all and is self-explanatory.  But, this concept was made crystal clear to me when I found myself focusing on one gift I received this holiday season that I didn’t like.  I had received so many wonderful gifts from various people and yet I was focusing on one “bad” gift.  This was only for a brief moment but it caught my attention.  Because this gift instance is a straight forward example, I was able to see the utter ridiculousness of putting our attention on what we don’t like or want.  Literally, surrounded by all these wonderful gifts and directing my attention at the one I didn’t like!

I realized how, as with the gifts, we have the choice to focus on one, or maybe even a few things, we don’t especially like or appreciate the multitude of other things we do like.  We can be (are!) surrounded by tons of good things – at times, they may seem like insignificant things, but they are good nonetheless – and miss them because we choose to emphasize the bad thing.

It’s pretty simple, so let’s not complicate it.  Do we want to dwell on the bad or good gifts?  What we put our attention and thoughts on determines how we feel.  The choice is ours.  (And remember, looking at the bad stuff won’t make it magically go away or improve.  See Law of Attraction and Joy)

What great gifts are all around you?

Politics and Joy

This is an oxymoron for me, as I have never enjoyed politics at all.  But, with such an intense and enduring election in USA, with a shocking result, it seems necessary to be able to find some joy somehow.  So, I dug deep.  I realized that most people’s default setting is that someone or something -like government- will help them.  Or we need someone or something to blame when things aren’t going how we like.  Or sometimes we use people or situations to distract us from our own issues.  All convenient but not accurate, nor helpful. (Disclaimer: Yes, of course, government programs and actions do help and serve many people.  But we cannot become dependent on anything or anyone outside of ourselves to live our lives for us.)

The truth is that we are the creators of our own lives.  That’s painful to acknowledge when things aren’t going how we’d like.  Yet, we hold the key to our thoughts and feelings.  And our thoughts and feelings create our realities. So, how was I expecting the government to help me, how was I blaming the government for what I didn’t like about my own reality, or how was I using this situation to distract me from my own issues?   In other words, how was I not taking ownership of my own life?

The morning after the election, my knee was hurting badly for no apparent physical reason.  Checking in my Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life book, I am reminded that knee problems have to do with pride, stubbornness, inflexibility and not giving in.  Ooooh, I had been stubborn, to say the least, about seeing how the president-elect could be beneficial.  I was being inflexible about how I believed he was selfish, disingenuous, and uncaring (among other less nice characteristics).  I certainly know that agonizing over bad aspects of anyone or anything is never, ever a good thing.  (I had to re-read this post.)  This case is no exception.

Because of this knowledge and the hope that I would find relief for my aching knee, I opened up to try to find one thing about him that wasn’t awful.  I found it!  He doesn’t care what people think of him.  Which is a trait I exceedingly cherish and try to have.  I mean, that’s my life’s work – to be me regardless of other people’s opinions.  (Disclaimer #2: This does not mean that I want to do the same actions as him.  We have different values and want different things.  I’m just talking about the not living life based on needing the good opinion of other people part.)  From there, I found a couple other aspects that weren’t terrible.

I felt some relief now and realized how much energy goes into hating.  With the respite, another level of information came to me:  This has to be something to do with me directly.  I don’t even know him and I’m not into politics, so why is this bothering me to this extent?  I realize it’s not even what he says, but his general mannerisms that irritate me so much.

Then it hits me like a ton of bricks. He reminds me of someone I know.  Someone I had issues with.  Not just annoyance but deep issues from childhood.  I thought I had already dealt with these issues.  But now I see that even though I had become aware of them and forgave the person, I never opened the gift.

The gift is all the wonderful lessons we learn, how we evolved because of it, and noticing the good that came or could come from it.

As is customary after receiving a gift, we thank the giver.  Closure cannot come without acknowledging and thanking the person.  Without opening and giving gratitude for the gift, the issue just sort of lingers and lurks about waiting for our acceptance.  So, I thoroughly went over this issue from childhood and found the good in it and felt genuine gratitude to the persons involved.

The point of this post isn’t that everyone has a personal issue related to a political representative.  But the idea is that we have the power in our own lives.  It’s our choice how we feel, react, and respond to whatever is going on around us, whether it be in our own house, the country, or the world.  Are we going to love or hate?   Are we going to live in courage or fear?  It’s a personal choice of which we have full power.

Second point, it’s always beneficial to not dwell in fear and negativity.  When we look for the positive and good in all situations, absolutely including politicians we don’t agree with, when we stop playing the I’m- better-than and the blame game, then we give ourselves a chance to feel relief, love, and joy.  And from here, we get all kinds of things we want.  Maybe even a politician hearing us.

We can’t be full of hate and negativity and expect to see a loving, positive world.  Through each of our own individual attitudes of love and peace, the world will reflect that.

Be Happy When We Don’t Get What We Want!

I was feeling downright crappy when I didn’t get something that I really wanted.  After wallowing briefly, but intensely, I realized there must be some point to this.  With that non-judgmental thought, I opened to an insight.

It’s easy to be happy-go-lucky when we get everything we want and when things go our way.  As I mentioned in the last blog, during my Gratitude Experiment I realized I had to also be grateful when things didn’t go how I wanted.  This was one of those times – I had to be grateful –and also happy– despite not getting what I wanted.

Why?

Why be happy when we don’t get what we want?  Because things aren’t always going to go how we prefer.  Shit happens.  (Yes, even when we envision, go with the flow, pray, meditate, and connect to God.)  Being happy regardless of what we get or don’t get is the only way we can be in charge of our happiness; it’s the only way to not be victims of other people’s actions.  It’s the only way we can be free from having our feelings dictated by other people and circumstances.  They are our feelings.

If we are only happy when a specific outcome occurs, then we’re stuck; we’re dependent, we’re not free; we’re in emotional jail dependent on others to let us out.

Another reason is if we get stuck in a bad mood we won’t notice or appreciate when something good enters our lives, like a new opportunity or rendezvous with a helpful person or even merely the beauty that already surrounds us.  We won’t see these things because we’re too busy being dark, sad, pitiful, blaming others, going around saying how bad life is.  We can’t see the good stuff when we’re in ‘life sucks’ mode.

How?

How can we be happy when we don’t get what we want?  Let’s not pussyfoot around.  This can be difficult.  It can be excruciatingly painful when we don’t get what we want.  Everything inside us feels like we want to throw a 2 year old temper tantrum!  But, don’t do that.  Or rather, throw a momentary tantrum, get it all out and really let loose!  And then, accept things and get to the business of getting happy despite the circumstances.  Here’s some ideas:

  • Turn our focus on things we do like.
    • Say things like, ‘Even though I didn’t get x, I already have y which I enjoy.’
    • List random things that we like and appreciate.
    • Recognize that not getting this particular thing, didn’t take away all our other good stuff.
  • Deliberately look at what good came –or can come– from not getting this thing. This was highlighted in a previous post.  But, in a nutshell, when we know and see what we don’t want, we more clearly know what we do want. Also, we can see it as an opportunity for personal growth.  ‘What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’ can be a corny adage, but it’s exceedingly true!  We can also learn what not to do or how to do something better from our or others’ mistakes or flaws.
  • Be aware that we can’t see the full picture. God may have bigger, better vision and objectives for us.  This “mishap” may lead to that.  We’ve got to remain open-minded, and not think we know the one and only thing or path that is best for us.  I love this parable on this subject:
This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”
A month later, the horse came home–this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”
The farmer’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, “What makes you think it is bad?”
A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. “What makes you think this is good?” said the farmer.

 

So, let’s not get fixated on what we think we “know for sure” will make us happy.  Allow some space in there for the Universe to work its magnificence.

Then, every time that crappy feeling comes back about not having what we want – and it probably will- do the above again and feel grateful for the opportunity given to feel true freedom.

30 Days of Gratitude (or…At Least A Few Days of Gratitude)

The last two posts were about a day without a negative aspect (complaining and judging) These were very enlightening experiments.  But now it’s time to focus more deeply on the positive side.  Previous posts have included the value of gratitude and appreciation, but lately I’ve become more aware of their incredible power.  And, more importantly, I’ve become more aware that I haven’t been doing them regularly!  Yea sure, I’ve been grateful for lots of stuff and I appreciate tons of things.  But honestly, it’s been kind of a hit or miss activity.  I do it when the mood strikes me or when I’m in pre-crisis mode and need it as an emotional emergency pick-me-up!

Noticing that I (still!) tend to focus a little on the what-is-lacking-in-my-life side, I decided to really get on the gratitude-appreciation bandwagon and see what happens.  There is a definite power in writing things down, like helping with focus and motivation.  And it also comes in handy for accountable reasons.  In other words, the ego can’t trick us by saying we already were thankful today, when we really weren’t (After looking on dated list: ‘Oh yea, that was yesterday…’).  So, I’ve got a piece of paper (a journal just sounds too formal and off-putting for now) and I’m writing down about 5 to 10 things every day that I am grateful for.  That’s it.  My aim is to do this for 30 days, but again, that sounds too formal.  I’m going to try it out for a few days (thus, the alternate title) and see how it goes.

Benefits of Gratitude and Appreciation

During the experiment I did some research about its possible benefits.  Studies have actually been done that show the beneficial effects of gratitude and appreciation.  People who consistently practice gratitude report feeling better physically, are less depressed, sleep better, are more understanding of others’ wrongdoings, have more self-worth, mental focus, and resilience.  Gratitude also helps us to stay in the present.  In other words, we spend less time worrying about future events.  When we are more focused on finding the good, we naturally spend less time in the negativity mindset.

Additionally, there is the law of attraction angle on gratitude and appreciate – what we focus on, we get more of.  To get more good stuff, appreciate what we already have.  Simple enough.

The Experiment

Back to the experiment!  After a couple of days, one of my first thoughts upon waking was that I couldn’t wait to write on my gratitude list.  That’s especially significant because, some mornings, I wake up dreading my day.  Having an initial feeling of excitement and joy is a major turn-around!

Shortly thereafter, I didn’t want to wait till the next day to write on it.  So, I wrote on it twice a day, then three times a day.  But under no pressure, only if I felt the urge.  I only “had” to write on it once a day.

Some neat things started to happen.  Nothing noticeable to an outsider, but small things that mattered a lot to me, like, less time with an irritating co-worker, getting well-priced deals, finding $1 and $10 on the ground, a small pay raise, life-changing insights, meaningful dreams, an overall more joyful feeling.

Another neat thing was that I had a dream about something to be grateful for that I hadn’t thought of in waking life.  This showed my waking self that the feeling and energy of gratitude was now in my subconscious, as well.  So even when I’m not actively thinking about gratitude, I’m thinking about gratitude.  This must be a good indicator!

Then, after several days of writing down heaps of material possessions, as well as, relationships and nature-type things –and even though it was certainly nowhere near all-encompassing– a shift in subject matter began to happen.  I shifted from obvious things for which to be grateful, to the people that had a part in assembling those things I was grateful for!  The factory workers that made my appliances, my car, my clothes, my electronic devices…pretty much every material thing I owned, somebody had a part in creating it.  Without their contribution, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy so many of my belongings.

Then there’s the people that came up with the ideas to invent something new or improved and those that started a business.  And gratitude for their courage to follow through with the ideas.  Then it extended to people that were providing a service, like the cleaning guy at work, trash collectors that come to my house every week, the postal carrier that nicely places oversized packages on my porch (extra appreciation since Amazon Prime!).  And then to authors, which I love and have been so inspired by, that had the strength and took the time to write, organize, and complete their books.  And then and then and then…so many people working for me, helping me.  Most of whom I do not even know.

I was recognizing that the Universe was supporting me, not hurting me or trying to make my life miserable.  This is a major shift in perception.

Amidst the gratitude, the ego chimed in and said, ‘That’s their jobs.  They aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.  They’re getting paid for it’.  Kaboom – my bubble burst.  But I quickly realized, their motives not need affect my gratitude.  And then got back to the experiment.

I started recognizing good things about myself, my appearance, things I was good at, and my strengths.  Then I noticed things I did not necessarily like about myself but was grateful for anyhow.  For instance, I was grateful for my fear of sending a professional email to a stranger regarding an article submission (that I so badly wanted to work out).  I was grateful for my fear because it provided me with an opportunity to feel worthy and courageous by facing a fear.

With this in mind, I then intentionally thought of situations that weren’t so great and then appreciated them, as well.  (I have done this practice before but, again, in a haphazard fashion.)  For instance, I was grateful for a “bad” event because it was an opportunity for personal growth and to learn from mistakes and flaws.  I was even grateful that someone had wronged me because it helped me get better at honoring myself.  Could being grateful be helpful in increasing self-worth?  I don’t fully understand the why of this, but the answer seems to be, yes!

I then had a glimpse of knowing that current things that weren’t so great would be okay eventually.  So I was able to have gratitude for “bad” times before they got better.  This led to gratitude for things that I currently desired but did not yet have.  I was appreciating them ahead of time.  That’s some trust and faith right there!

And after that, I experienced nirvana!  (Yes, let’s be overly dramatic about this!)  It was just a fleeting moment, but for that jiffy, I truly did not care about my desires.  I honestly was happy, satisfied, and content in the moment right then and there as things currently were.  No guilt about my past, no worry about the future, not wanting anything different than how it was in that exact instant.

And then my heavenly state was gone.  But, I could tell what was happening over the course of this experiment – my gratitude was becoming unconditional.  In that, there is total freedom because I don’t need conditions to be a certain way to be grateful for them or…to be happy.  What I have figured out from this gratitude experiment is that gratitude helps us to focus our thoughts, our attention, our lives on finding the good – unconditionally, no matter what.  As the Dalai Lama says in The Art of Happiness, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”.  The power is within ourselves whether to be grateful and happy, or not.  This experiment surely is proof of that.

Disclaimer!!  I don’t want to give a false impression that I am now impeccably blissful and every time a challenge comes up I am grateful for it from the get-go.  I still have my daily issues and concerns.  But, there has been an undeniable shift.  Something is certainly different than before I did the gratitude experiment.  And that’s why I’m going to extend the experiment.  If a mere 30 days had this effect, then what will continuing on do?  I intend to find out!

Don’t take my word for all of this.  Start your own Gratitude List Experiment today and see what happens for you.  No need to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by needing to list the unconditional things.  Just start out with a few material objects you appreciate having in your life.  Your list will expand naturally on its own.  Happy Gratituding!

Changing Old, Cranky Habits

When we start focusing on feeling more joyful, we soon become aware of some of our habits that are getting in the way of our joy.  These habits can be actual behaviors or merely thought patterns.  But trying to change an unwanted habit can be a daunting task.  It used to make me very grumpy, to say the least, to try to stop doing that old habit!  And that’s even when we are intentionally attempting to break the habit.  But sometimes, we don’t even realize we are doing the old habit.  It’s almost as if our brains are on autopilot.  Lo and behold, that actually is the case!

In fact, scientific research has discovered neural pathways in our brains.  These are like highways in which messages travel.  A simple example of a pathway forming is if we feel stressed (or worried, threatened, anxious, etc.) and then drink alcohol or go shopping or rant to a friend or binge eat or do whatever that makes us feel better, then cells become wired together that tell the brain the next time we feel this stress, take this same road to feel better.  The more the messages travel on the highway, the better formed the highway becomes.  Hence, pathways -habits- become difficult to alter and responses become automated.

But, fortunately, with our conscious awareness, these roads can be changed.  Neuroplasticity is a fancy term meaning the brain can form new pathways throughout our lives.  Research has shown that new neural pathways are formed through new behaviors, and even by imagining behaviors.  What matters is the repetition of the behavior, actual or imagined.  We all have experienced that the more often we do something, the easier it gets. This is the highway becoming better formed.

Think of it as a trail through the woods.  The first time through, it needs careful, slow footing and an axe to get through the heavy bush.  But once the trail is blazed then it becomes a path to easily walk on.  But what happens to the old pathways that are no longer traveled?  Just like the trail in the forest would become overgrown if not walked upon, the pathway will naturally fade out if not used.  But, how to not use these well-treaded paths?!

False Brain Messages

In the book, You Are Not Your Brain by Schwartz and Gladding, they suggest that we train our brains to perceive habits – good or bad ones – as vital to our survival.  Deceptive brain messages, as they call them, convince us we must do this certain behavior to stay alive.  Essentially, the brain’s job is to ensure our physical survival.  When we feel a negative emotion, the brain sees it as an alarm it must take care of immediately.  So, whatever seems beneficial and makes us feel better in the very short term is the route the brain will take.  The brain, on its own, will not bypass immediate relief by considering long term goals and desires.  The brain isn’t concerned with our future well-being, it just cares about preventing our imminent death.  Our brains are not actually smart; it’s our minds that have all the wisdom.

Clearly seeing the brain’s function for what it is, it becomes easier to break free of old habits.  When we notice we are engaging in an old habit, ask ourselves, what benefit does my brain think I am getting from this habit?  Then use our mind to tell ourselves this is a deceptive brain message and that the brain thinks this habit will help us to survive.  This is where it is essential to remind ourselves that the false brain message is not true and then to go over why it isn’t true.  (Hint: it probably has to do with feeling unworthy.) Schwartz and Gladding say to then refocus by doing a different behavior or think a different thought.

An Example of Breaking a Habit

One of my negative habits is to check and re-check my work at my “day job”.  And after I check it twice, to then check it again…and maybe again!  The deceptive brain message from which this habit stems is about not being capable of doing my work correctly (which originated in childhood, but we don’t need to get into all that now).  This message – even though not true – triggers the uncomfortable sensations of anxiety and worry.  To immediately alleviate those sensations, I have trained myself (unconsciously) to check, ad nauseam, to make sure my work is correct.  This gives me immediate relief from worry and anxiety, which is all the brain is concerned with – get those bad feelings to go away ASAP!  Benefit achieved.  But the problem with that is that the false brain message just keeps coming back and, what’s more, it gets worse (the trail get more and more blazed as it is used).

This is where the conscious mind must come in and say something along the lines of, ‘Whoa!  This is not helping me in the long run.  Yea, checking my work makes me feel better in that moment and may even prevent a panic attack, but I now know that I will feel more anxiety about this later.  I now know this message of incapability is false.  I learned it in childhood and have perpetuated it into my adult life.  I know this message is not true now because I have successfully been doing these work tasks for years.’  And so on, until I have convinced myself the brain message is not true.

Next step is to refocus on a completely different activity or thought. I keep a few refocus activities stashed in my mental pocket, so they are available to me without having to struggle to come up with something when I am deep in false brain message mode. Some of mine are going for a walk, learning Italian words, looking at nature, appreciating a beautiful object, Googling a place I’d like to travel, crafting.  The refocusing activities should be positive things or, at least, not detrimental.  We don’t want to replace a bad habit with a new, but still not helpful one.

What old, negative habit do you want to let go of?  What false brain message is associated with it?  Why is the message not true?

Research shows that it takes a few weeks of persistence, practice, and focused repetition to make a new neural pathway.  Remember you are not just breaking a bad habit, but squashing false brain messages.  So give it a try and hang in there!