Covid-19 has given many people pause to reflect about their priorities and make changes. It’s hard to know any real statistics on how many people made long and lasting changes to their habits and lifestyles and how many people felt (and maybe still feel) stuck in the flight/fight/freeze response to Covid. Prominent psychologist Rick Hanson suggests that, of a group of people facing a life-altering opportunity or challenge, typically 1/3 make significant and lasting changes, 1/3 make some changes, and 1/3 stay stuck or end up in a worse situation.
The good news is that you can move out of the stress response and back into your window of tolerance so that you can navigate towards feeling better in your body and the wellness outcome you want.
Two key elements are being willing to pause and being willing to feel.
Here are 3 short practices to work with and you can focus on one or work with all three.
1.) Keep a clear image of how you want to FEEL in your body. Here are a few descriptions of what feeling better might be (and you may have other ideas as well)…
Steadier. Lighter. Clearer. In less pain. More warm-hearted. More energetic. More open. More flexible. More peaceful. Happier. More content. Stronger.
Once you are able to identify what better feels like, you now have a goal or touchstone to keep in mind.
Take 60 seconds to actively sense or visualize one of these aspirations in yourself. Allow yourself to absorb the feeling so that it anchors in to your cellular memory. Return to this feeling every day. Write it down and post it somewhere visible. Change the location of your signpost every week to keep it fresh.
2.) Banish limiting beliefs. Identify what is getting in the way of feeling better. Some of the barriers might be:
- I don’t deserve it. Why should I feel good when there is so much suffering in the
- I don’t have time! Too many people depend on me and I have too much to do to
think of myself.
- I’m sick or in chronic pain so feeling better isn’t even available to me.
- I’m too stressed and can’t even imagine feeling good or better right now, if ever.
If you have the thought “I’d like to, but…” there is a barrier to entry. Feeling better is available to you but requires you to be willing to press pause on the thought pattern or belief. There are very simple practices for this and the simplest takes a single minute.
One Minute Meditation:
Take a single minute to pause and focus on something in this present moment – the feeling of the chair underneath you and you sitting in the chair; noticing the sounds in the space
around you; or feeling the temperature of the air against your skin. Absorb your full attention into this thing. Even within 60 seconds you may find that your mind wants to wander back to its habitual thoughts so gently return your attention to the chair, sounds, or air on skin. Even if you have to usher yourself back 10 times in 60 seconds, it is worth the effort. This practice will give you a taste of feeling better for this one minute. Allow yourself to marinate in feeling ok and absorb this into your body. With enough repetition you can turn this state of feeling better into a long-lasting trait.
3.) Develop a gratitude practice! It may sound cliché, but it is a powerful practice and turns everyday ordinary experiences into meaningful ones. Again, it requires you to press pause and reflect on your experiences, as ordinary as they may be, and honor the things that you may take for granted. For example, we don’t notice our generally good health until something hurts or we become ill but consciously remembering how you felt on a walk or exchanged a smile with someone in passing or enjoyed petting a furry friend makes meaning of everyday experiences and since we have dozens of these each day, you are sitting on a gold mine!
As you become more attuned to HOW you are feeling, as you press pause for one minute several times a day for these practices, slowly that one minute practice will turn to two, which will then turn to three, and so on until your awareness permeates every moment of your day and feeling better becomes normal. The state becomes a trait. And that feels good!
*Please note that if you are dealing with trauma or feeling stuck outside of your window of tolerance, you may need a trauma specialist to help guide you through the process of feeling sensations and emotions in order to benefit from the practices above.