A Simple Exercise in Reconnecting with Your Self

“An essential skill when time is scarce and tension is high, because a busy head cannot calm a busy mind.”

Do you feel highly stressed, with your mind overactive, parts of your body tense, and your thoughts spinning out of control?

  • Do you have a feeling of dissatisfaction or pain that you can’t quite pinpoint?
  • Do you encounter situations in your daily life that cause you stress, fatigue, anger, pain or irritation?
  • Worse, do you carry unresolved suffering from past emotional trauma, and can’t rid yourself of the accompanying numbness and tension?
  • Do you feel that your effectiveness goes as you find that your body can’t relax and intrusive thoughts won’t go away?
  • Is your energy sapped, but when you try the recommended remedies –– such as grounding and relaxing, starting an exercise routine, changing your diet, balancing your lifestyle, reading a self-help book, turning to friends, taking a weekend away­­ –– somehow you don’t have enough time or see the results quickly enough, with the result that you don’t stick to the routine, practice the exercises, of follow these regimens?

If you say yes to any or all of these questions, please try an exercise in Mindfulness and Awareness to reprogram your mind to emotional calmness and resilience.  The exercise doesn’t require you to run to the gym, become a meditation participant in a sangha, read books, take a holiday, or invest in anything but yourself, and it can be applied for a few minutes, anytime, anywhere.

Mindfulness is being used more and more in various health fields, both physical and psychological.  Research in Western countries now demonstrates that some simple and quick techniques that have been taught in various Far East countries for hundreds of years are extremely effective in giving your body and mind a rest.  These principles are now applied in Positive Psychology, motivation training, stress, burn-out and anxiety programmes, and many other areas of physical and mental health, such as cancer patient units and centres specialising in trauma recovery, e.g., army veteran centres.  And the same exercises are effective when applied to daily stress, tension, or emotional upsets.

Mindfulness consists of allowing troublesome thoughts and sensations to come and go.  It is the opposite of the traditional ineffective advice to “move on”, “just don’t think about it”, “let it go”,  “box it”, “keep a stiff upper lip”, and so on.  Instead, mindfulness involves simply relegating these thoughts to the background and observing them as they come and go.

To do this, you need to use the power of your senses to relax the mental and physical tension you feel because of difficult situations and bring your mind and body back to optimum and natural functioning!

“When in frustration, go back to your senses.”

Try this:

  1. Think of a frustrating thought (e.g., a stressful morning meeting, traffic jam on the road and missed appointment, issues with a partner, etc.)
  2. Feel how your body reacts and tenses up as you bring the thought to the fore.  Bodily sensations always associate with a thought about an event.
  3. Now immediately rub your fingers together or against your desk or your clothing – touch something.
  4. Don’t consciously fight to try to make the frustrating thought disappear from your mind — just bring your mind to the sense of touch.
  5. Notice how the thought and tension are somewhat minimised.
  6. Do this again and again throughout the day.

Repeat this practice over a few days and then broaden it to include another of the senses.  For example, follow touch by bringing in your sense of hearing:

  • Consciously bring your mind to become aware of background noises, such as the hum of the aircon, or of your computer, multiple faint sources of noise, e.g., conversations in the street, birds chirping, the sound of your fingers tapping on the computer, etc.  Background noises are not those of the TV, but subtle sounds and hums around you.
  • Let the noises in the background come to fill the foreground of your mind.  As you do this, you may notice how your current thoughts are still present, but minimised in your mind.

Then, do the same again, this time with your vision:

  • Notice what is around you, especially the texture of the objects you see, whatever those objects are, beautiful flower or trash on the street.

And do the same again with your sense of taste and smell.

  • Notice the taste inside your mouth, or the texture of the gum you chew, or the food you eat.  Concentrate on the smells around you, whether pleasant or not.

This may take a few minutes, or maybe just seconds.  The trick is to remember to do it.  Like any muscles, the more you practice being aware of your senses, the stronger and more effective this Mindfulness technique becomes.

Underlying this exercise is a fundamental principle: when our minds are overactive, our bodies tense up, and our senses close down.  Our senses are our connection to reality.  Reality lies outside of us, externally, not within our internal thought processes.  Deliberate moments of (re)connection to our external physical environment by bringing our sensory modes to the forefront of our attention appeases the mind, and hence appeases our body responses.

If your mode of taking in sensory inputs is mainly visual, try doing the exercise above with your other, less utilised senses: touch, hearing and taste or smell.  Do this each time you face a problematic thought or feeling.  Allow the thought or feeling to coexist with all of the background sensory inputs your mind is now absorbing.  The relief or melting away of thought and tension may be nearly immediate or may be a slower process, depending on the intensity of the problem and associated mental or body sensations and also how much experience you have using this exercise.

If you are interested in knowing more about this method and various exercises you can apply to calm your thoughts and tension, why not sign up for either an individual session or a workshop? Contact us for details.

Author: Pascale Aline

Psychotherapist & Performance Coach, I specialize working with tools for self enhancement, growth, productivity and healing (Biofeedback, EMDR, Mindfulness training)

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