As I detailed in the last post, there are many factors that conspire against our emotional well-being. In addition, we have a mental simulator that constantly replays mini-movies of events, essentially reminding us to avoid threats and approach positive opportunities. Of note, negative experiences (real or possible) hold more weight in our brains. The key word is possible; evolutionarily speaking, there was a priority on avoiding the dangerous over seeking good opportunities. The negative movies are therefore replayed more often than positive ones, strengthening the neural connections over time. What's worse, these movies take us out of the moment by focusing on things that - although terrifying - may never even happen.
Understanding the above, isn't it time we give ourselves a break? Peronsally, I think it helps to understand that a lot of the anxiety and negativity we feel is just our mind's best effort at helping us survive and thrive. However, it's important to take a step back and realize that (not unlike an overprotective parent), the intentions are good, but a little bit misguided. With that in mind, I like to show myself a little bit of compassion when I'm stuck in a negative loop of thought.
For example, I like to do the following (adapted from Buddha's Brain):
1. Call to mind someone who loves and cares about you. Feel in your heart what it's like to be loved and cared for - the sense of peace and security.
2. Think of someone you have compassion for, for example, a friend, sibling, or a small child. Feel the sense of protectiveness and love that you have towards that person.
3. Extend that sense of compassion, love, and nurturing to yourself. Realize that your mind is doing its best to keep you alive, but really, it doesn't need to try so hard (unless you're living in the wilderness by yourself!). Have compassion for your discomforts, knowing that they will all pass.
4. Focus on something positive in front of you now, no matter how small. That could mean chatting with a co-worker you like for 2 minutes, taking a deep breath, or just taking a moment to look outside and appreciate the view.
On a whim, we went up to Williamstown, MA this weekend to enjoy the beginning of fall foliage - and to reminisce about S's college experience. This morning, September 27, was the first official crisp fall morning we've felt. Apple cider, pumpkin pie, and fireplaces - here we come! Have a lovely week and be well.