mindfullness

Forming Personal Wholeness of Your Mind

Form personal wholeness through your mind. Becoming a better you is as much as becoming a whole, authentic self.

Existential Validity

The likelihood of any of us being here, alive, talking, breathing, laughing, making love or anything else is astronomically unlikely. If we see life as a precious opportunity because of this unlikelihood, we can better appreciate life for the time we have it. Some people wonder if there is any point then if we are all going to die anyway.

Would it not be more constructive to make the best of the time we have and look at time as a companion to remind us to cherish each and every moment? There seems to be two fundamental choices we have in life that is in our sphere of control – to take a constructive approach that is life-promoting, or take a destructive approach that inhibits growth. Each moment is an opportunity to practice this and to learn from the times that we lose heart and inhibit our growth.

Community & Mentors

It is important to surround yourself with people whom you would like to emulate because we tend to internalize the social norms, customs, and ideologies of the particular people we surround ourselves with or the groups we are in.

This is largely an unconscious process. So, be selective about the people and groups you associate with because you can utilize this tendency to internalize the ‘culture’, behaviours and attitudes, in addition to the knowledge sharing that occurs, to benefit your thriving toward greater success, happiness, and health.

The biggest challenge in forming a community is finding upstanding people who are going to be empathic, caring, constructive, ethical, and reciprocal. The purpose of this book is to help foster these qualities in the reader so that they can become both a healthy individual and also a positive community member.

Begin by reflecting on any persons whom you do admire for their qualities and characteristics in living a healthy life, being an ethical person, having discipline and a measured approach to life, and who has a great deal of empathy toward others. You can also contemplate what an ideal mentor might be like – their qualities, characteristics, and the way that they might behave toward you in a constructive way that you are needing. You can also assess which activities or groups you have a natural interest in and begin to search there for those who you admire.

Your mentors do not need to be a mentor in every way. You can identify aspects of the mentor that you would like to model. They will not be a perfect person. The building of relationships takes time so don’t rush it.

Relational Skills

The social context and close interpersonal relationships we developed in greatly influence our individual identity. To aid you in fostering healthier and more constructive social relationships at this preliminary stage, there are some skills and concepts you can apply to your interactions with others so that you relate in a manner that is more constructive and fosters validation and connection.

This is not a cure-all because there are often implicit associations and memories that influence how we or they automatically interpret interactions that cause dissonance in the relationship. These implicit memories will be worked on in a subsequent chapter. However, there can be remarkable gains in creating greater harmony with others from utilizing these relational skills and concepts. We don’t completely live for others and we do not solely live for ourselves. It is a balance and integration between individuality and social connectedness.

We would not be able to have social connectedness if we did not have some individuality, as in order to have connections with others, there needs to be a ‘self’ and ‘other’ to form a connection. By definition this requires individuality otherwise it would be an undifferentiated mass. Healthy differentiation and balance of individual and social needs and obligations seems to be essential for the health and stability of one’s psyche.

The first suggestion for fostering interpersonal connection and developing amicable relationships is to respect the emotional boundaries of the other person (and yourself). Take a break if you’re stressed and only talk about concerns when you’re at a mild or moderate level of stress because during higher levels our brain processes and interprets what is communicated in a more generalized and negatively biased way.

Similarly, if the other person is experiencing high anxiety or stress you need to respect their emotional boundaries as well. The perseverative tendency due to stress to want to hash out differences despite being completely overwhelmed often leads to circular arguments and frustration.

So, if your stress is elevated, kindly let the other person know that it is important to you to resolve this matter with them and you want to hear them out and come to a solution or understanding. You might say something like “I care about having this conversation, and would like to continue when I’m feeling calmer, but I am overwhelmed to the extent that I worry that I’m not able to stay constructive and interpret things accurately. So, are you okay if we postpone until we both feel ready?”.

If you don’t already find yourself in the middle of a discussion, try to be mindful of the timing that a conversation might work for the other person too, and check-in with them about this so that each person can be ready to talk when they are at a moderate level of stress and at their best for accurately and constructively communicating.

When it’s the relatively best time to have a conversation, and you are ready to begin, practice talking a bit slower than normal when communicating as this allows what is said to be more accurately received. When we talk fast it increases stress levels and makes it more likely that our brain will fill in the gaps in a negatively biased and generalized manner. Also, breathe a bit slower, and make your exhales a little longer than usual. Exhaling activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) a little each time, which calms you down. If you exhale for a longer period, this activates the PNS longer thus assisting with reducing stress levels and improving clarity of thought.

A good way to start a discussion is prefacing with a positive or caring sentiment before the content of the concern as this primes the brain and reduces defensiveness. This is because all subsequent dialogue is greatly interpreted through the lens and connotations of what is initially said. An example of prefacing might be (e.g. “I wanted to talk because I really care about working this out” (recognition), or “I see the effort and work and care you are putting into this even if we disagree on some important points” (validation), or “I don’t think it’s your intention” (understanding).

When starting to express the content of your concerns or needs try to use “I” statements and the impact this has on you, such as “When I noticed/saw/heard, ___the impact it had on me is that I felt misunderstood”. Try to describe the underlying feelings. Talk about the perceived behaviour because this keeps it tentative, affirms self-agency in the other, reduces defensiveness, and allows for clarification of what was initially perceived. Try to avoid making personal attacks about the person, and instead focus on the behaviour.

It is common for people to use labels when communicating. Instead, describe and elaborate on what the underlying feelings and experiences are underneath the label. Monitor the labels you use and break these down to more neutral terms and specific concerns. Labels are a broad generalization and they have connotations that are associated with, for example, disgust and lack of value. Avoid using shorthand labels. Take the time to describe the underlying feelings and the needs below the labels.

Empathy is a commonly misunderstood practice. Many people first think of empathy as agreeing or sympathizing. Empathy is not about agreeing with the other; it is about putting oneself in the frame of reference of the other and expressing understanding of what they are experiencing without necessarily agreeing with their perspective. Empathizing helps create a sense of feeling understood, which has a calming effect because a frequent source of anger is the perception that another does not understand our concerns and inner experience. Try to identify, and then express what you see the other person might be feeling, what they might be needing, and describe how you care about it. This fosters validation and enhances connection.

There are several ways to foster a greater emotional impact of what you express. The first suggestion would be to talk face-to-face (vs texting, for example). Being able to see the facial cues and non-verbal body language of each other, and having reduced distraction, are very helpful in interpreting one another’s intentions more accurately. Try to talk about one point at a time, keep it simple and brief, and allow the other person to talk after about 20-30 secs) so that what is said can be processed and not forgotten or swept under the rug inadvertently.

Our short-term memory is only about 30 seconds long, so it is important to keep each person’s turn brief so that the point you are trying to make can be remembered and addressed by the other person. Another tip is to try talking at a slightly slower pace as this can help to make an emotional impact and better register in them. This also non-verbally lets the other person know that you respect and care about the conversation.

Last but not least, try to have a constructive and future focus in your dialogue. Concentrate on what you can do about the frustrations in the present and how to move forward in a constructive way here and now. You can still talk about the past, but in a way that addresses how it is impacting you now, and what your needs are for moving forward.

Parenting

Your parenting responses toward your child will be the automatic impulses and reactions that your child will have to their own and others’ emotional experiences. In other words, the way you parent will create a template for the impulses and tendencies for how they will parent and relate to self and others.

This ‘learning’ will generalize from specific experiences to a variety of situations because the features of the situation, context, and state of mind will be similar enough to elicit the implicit memory resulting in them experiencing these automatic reactions. For example, if you get angry at them for wanting something, they will feel shame for wanting things in general in situations where they feel desire for something.

The key is to relate to them and express anger and frustration in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them based on their level of cognitive capacity. Avoid getting angry at the child’s emotions because if their emotions are paired with responses from you of anger, ridicule, etc. they will experience this inner conflict (e.g., sadness & embarrassment; anger & shame) which will impede the ability for them to cognitively contextualize their emotional perceptions due to the suppression of these from the parenting responses that formed in implicit memory. This becomes an internal model for how they automatically tend to relate to self and others. And, this also carries down the line intergenerationally.

You can still set physical boundaries in a way that makes space for, and encourages, them to feel and experience their emotions. There is a difference between facilitating the emotional awareness of emotional experience and facilitating behaviour that is dangerous or unhealthy. It is necessary to experience our emotions without impediment because cognitive contextualization with the slower mental processes helps to provide the necessary context to the generalized and negatively biased perceptions that elicit emotional responses. This downregulates distress and connects one’s executive thinking abilities to emotional responses allowing for greater perspective, clarity, and control.

Meditation

The history of meditation and its different use across cultures may indicate the function of meditation as being in reaction to coping with cultural, environmental, and socio-economic pressures which may ameliorate one’s sense of powerlessness, discomfort, and give rise to the need to further enhance regulation of one’s stress levels and ability to cope.

It is important to ensure that your physical and emotional needs are met and not focus solely on meditations that dissociate or deny your corporeal self to the point that it adversely impacts your health. Such meditation can be helpful to cope with physical and emotional adversity, but it should not forfeit health.

One meditation you can begin with is a breathing meditation that also incorporates muscle relaxation to assist with fostering focus and making the experience comfortable. You can add on slow movement to this to make it a movement meditation as well. This can be particularly helpful if you are feeling too restless for a stationary meditation.

Recalling the principle of Neurosequentiality, it is important to regulate your stress levels to assist with your cognitive attention, so this is one of the reasons to incorporate relaxation or regulation techniques into the meditation practice. If you find the breathing exercise in a stationary manner too challenging you can do this same exercise while incorporating slow movement such as yoga, tai chi, movement, or freestyle movement.

During meditation you may notice spontaneous insights that come in the form of images, feelings, and impressions. Allow these to surface and gently and gradually bring your attention back to your breathing and relaxing your muscles. Making the process of returning your attention to your breathing and relaxation a slow, gradual, and gentle one assists with facilitating a relaxation response and greater focus. Start with doing the following exercise for about 1 minute to get some practice.

Exercise: Meditation

  1. Get comfortable where you are sitting, standing, or lying down. Gently become aware of your body and stay with this embodied awareness throughout the exercise. Move or shift your body to get comfortable.
  2. Slow your breathing down. Breathe in a little deeper than usual making sure it’s comfortable for you. Breathe out a bit longer than you normally do in a way that feels pleasant for you. Make your breathing smooth, even, and rhythmic. Continue breathing this way for the entire exercise.
  3. Be aware of the relief and relief intrinsic in exhaling. Become aware of the feeling or sensation of replenishment intrinsic in inhaling.
  4. Scan your body and notice where you feel tension. Sequentially slowly move each tense part of your body slowly being aware of the movement as it’s happening. When you exhale as you are moving this part of the body, gently and gradually allow this part of your body to start to release and let go.
  5. Notice any enjoyable sensations when you exhale and gently allow the muscle to start to let go a little. Allow yourself to experience the sensations as these are occurring in your body.

Contemplation

The difference between meditation and contemplation is that meditation is about focusing on present stimuli, and contemplation is about focusing on ideas, concepts, and experiences in an attempt to gain insight or better understand or formulate a solution.

A focus on the felt sense in the body is helpful as ‘feelings” are a combination of core emotion and internal perceptual-spatial simulations (perceptions and automatic interpretations) and are the anchor that drive associations. One can have associations without feelings being grounded in the association, but these associations, if they are not connected with emotion, can be more random and based more on the features of the association rather than the features of the particular implicit memory.

In other words, focusing on the body and felt sense helps with making the insights that arise in the form of associative images, impressions, thoughts, impulses and other feelings relevant to what you are contemplating instead of being randomly based on the categorical features of the association itself. Start with doing the following exercise for about 1 minute to get some practice.

 

Exercise: Contemplation

  1. Get comfortable where you are sitting, standing, or lying down. Gently become aware of your body and stay with this embodied awareness throughout the exercise. Move or shift your body to get comfortable. Slow your breathing down. Breathe in a little deeper than usual making sure it’s comfortable for you. Breathe out a bit longer than you normally do in a way that feels pleasant for you. Make your breathing smooth, even, and rhythmic. Continue breathing this way for the entire exercise.
  2. Scan your body and notice where you feel tension. Sequentially and slowly move each tense part of your body while slowly being aware of the movement as it’s happening. When you exhale as you are moving this part of the body, gently and gradually allow this part of your body to start to release and let go. Notice any enjoyable sensations when you exhale and gently allow the muscle to start to let go a little. Allow yourself to experience the sensations as these are occurring in your body. If you are not aware of any at all, imagine the feeling and sensation of what a little bit of relaxation might feel like in the whole of your body. Just gently imagine the felt sense of this in your body. Now, savour any enjoyable sensations there are for about 10 seconds at the same time you are gently aware of your body.
  3. Think of or recall a place – real or imaginary – where you feel safe, protected, calm, clear, and content. Notice what you see in this place specifically. What do you smell? What do you hear? What tactile senses are you noticing? Stay with and linger on this experience as you are aware of your body. Notice any enjoyable sensations of calm and relaxation – even if a little – and stay with this for 20 seconds.
  4. Slowly begin thinking, imagining, or doing that which you are trying to gain insight into or solve. Do this in slow motion and in a relaxed and comfortable way. Notice any images, impressions, thoughts, impulses and feelings that automatically arise – for ease of instruction we can term these as mental experiences. Stay with each one that arises for at least 10 seconds.
  5. Be especially aware of your body, and the feelings that are present when you are aware of that which you are trying to gain insight into or solve. After each mental experience arises, linger with the experience for at least 10 seconds. Reflect on what meaning it has to you about what you are contemplating on and how this connects with your life overall. Continue doing this for each that arises.
  6. When you are finished, take a few slow deep and long breaths, be aware of your body, and sequentially engage your five senses one at a time for about 20 seconds for each sense in something wherever you are in a slow manner. As you are aware of each sense, lightly be aware of your body and gently linger with each of these experiences in the moment it is occurring for at least 10 seconds.

Wisdom

Attaining wisdom comes through direct experience, the experience of others, and even fiction. We can benefit from the cultural transmission of civilization through what has been recorded in history, fictional anecdotes, and the personal experiences of both ourselves and others. Become an explorer of wisdom.

Make a personal log of the lessons you have learned, as well as begin immersing yourself in history and literature. Contemplate, categorize, and record what wisdom you can glean from this. And, explore with others what lessons they have learned about specific topics in a conversational and natural manner.

This is a lifetime practice so get comfortable and enjoy the journey in your search for wisdom. As you find some pearls of wisdom, contemplate how these might be applied to your life, and make a goal to integrate this into your life one practice a day or week.

Take even one small step and praise and encourage yourself so that this impetus perpetuates. Putting it into practice in real-life is crucial for the wisdom to integrate and become part of your automatic disposition and repertoire otherwise the conceptual wisdom does not transfer to procedural memory.

Precepts for Daily Life

This section contains practical principles to incorporate into your daily experience that are designed to help you deal with problems in life more effectively. You may like to try incorporating one per day. You can experiment with trying one per week or several days, or even staggering the frequency depending on the extent to which it is becoming a habit.

Goals & Core Values

Always be aware of your long-term goals and core values as these help to align your actions throughout the day with what is truly important to you. Be specific about what is important to you (e.g., Health, Children, Freedom, Helping Humanity, etc.).

Think, or write down, people or characteristics that you like and admire. This can include fictional characters or characteristics as well. Some categories might be: humour, genuineness, courage, kindness, assertiveness, self-esteem, self-confidence, and being strategic. In what way would you like this incorporated in your life? Be specific, if possible. Imagine yourself with those characteristics in a specific situation. First, just imagine what the behaviours might look like.

Counter-thoughts might come up, and that is okay. Our purpose right now is to explore what you want. We can work on resolving any obstacles in your self-beliefs later on. Now, imagine the felt sense and experience when doing those behaviours. How does that feel? Is there anything that you need to have in order to do those behaviours and get the results you want? Is there a way you need to view the situation? Is there anything you need to do? This is not magical thinking.

The purpose is to identify what you want, rehearse and plan what you need in order to achieve it as much as possible, and determine what negative self-beliefs, undeveloped skills, or materials you need in order to be the way you want.

Think of, or write down, what you would like more of in your lifestyle: greater health, wealth, more positive relationships, romance, increased stability, etc. Again, the purpose is to identify these so as to know what you would like to increase or foster as much as possible. Achieving these will likely require planning, lots of effort, and time.

Immediate Objective

Having identified some overarching goals, think about what your objective is in the present moment? Always (or often) reflect on what your immediate intent is in the current situation you are experiencing. Right now, why are you reading this book? What is your purpose – to improve your own life? If so, which aspects of your life? Are you hoping to help someone else? If yes, what is it that you want to help them with?

Being aware of your objective may help to retain perspective on life by activating your executive brain functions that integrate with your core emotional wants when stress and generalized and negatively-biased interpretations and impulses become intense and dominant. Emotion can indicate our values, but they can also be the basis for generalized and irrational interpretations and behaviour, which is mixed with implicit memories.

Prioritize

Become aware of your goals again. Get the felt sense of this in your body – the feeling stamp of it. Do this for several seconds. When you are ready, identify your objective in the present moment. Become aware of the feeling stamp of it in your body in this moment. Now, is this objective the highest priority right now based on what you would like? Is there another objective that is a higher priority? Take a minute to think about if there are. What do you need to do right now – what is the priority? The habit of prioritizing what you need to do, or what you engage in and with whom, may be a helpful practice to assist with optimizing your fulfillment in life.

Constructive

When challenging events happen, it is sometimes difficult to continue moving toward a healthy, positive, and productive direction. Sometimes we just get so exhausted that there is no energy to even try – but this inactivity seems to be temporary until your body and mind recuperate. When it is possible to begin moving (and growing) again, what can you do that would be constructive (even a little bit) for moving you in a forward direction for your health, happiness, and greater harmony with other people (in addition to how you treat yourself)? It may feel like a small step is inconsequential, and you might even feel a bit discouraged from doing a small step because it could seem that there is a long way to go still.

When you do one small thing, become aware of the number of steps it took you to achieve something in your past. Become aware of the felt sense of this and be aware of your body at the same time as you are experiencing it. Now, do one thing – be it a thought, a movement, or anything – that you assess might be a constructive and life-promoting action towards a more positive, balanced, and happy life. You may have thoughts that come up about this action being too small to be pertinent. Allow any thoughts to arise and after about a second or two, gently and gradually become aware of the action you made.

Part of this exercise is also intended to help develop the habit of doing constructive actions, so even if it may seem small, the process in and of itself is important for perpetuating positive growth. Along with negative counter-thoughts, does a little bit of enjoyment and positive acknowledgment co-exist with those feelings even though the action might be small? Is there some part of you that might also be a little bit pleased at the same time as another part is displeased? It might help to consider that it can take many small steps to climb a mountain, and many drops of water to fill an ocean. Become aware of any enjoyable sensations or feelings in your body from even a little bit of enjoyment from the small step – or even just from realizing that it takes many small additions to complete something.  What might the benefit of making numerous small steps over a period of time be?

This helps to perpetuate and increase this activity. Be aware of your body as you do this. Savour any enjoyment and allow the other parts to remain as well. Just continue lightly and slowly shifting your attention back to the part that is pleased. After any effort, it may be healthy to take a break to allow what was learned to percolate, and for your body and brain to regenerate from the physiological activation of confronting challenging thoughts and feelings.

One quick way to do this is by relaxing and focusing on your breathing and body for 5 to 10 seconds. Become aware of your body, notice any tension, breathe in, breathe out and move the parts of your body a bit as you do so. Continue for a couple of breaths, and as you breathe out lightly imagine breathing out the tension. Gradually and gently allow your muscles to relax a little bit. Notice any enjoyable feelings and sensations you are experiencing from doing this, and be aware of your body as you do. Savour these for several seconds. How might doing this benefit you in the future, such as more health, calmness, and greater energy? Become aware of any enjoyable feelings and sensations in your body from imagining the benefits. Savour it for several seconds or until you are ready.

Positives 

When we are aware of things that are supporting or helping us it can counteract or reduce automatic feelings that the world is against us (and self-hate). This helps with having a default life-promoting angle so that we are being constructive and moving toward life (not death). Also, we often take for granted the things we have, and miss out on opportunities to fully utilize and enjoy the benefits of these. Greater awareness at a more visceral level helps to contribute to your background mood.

Become aware of your body. Take a deep, comfortable breath in. Hold for a second. Breathe out a little fuller than usual in a way that is enjoyable for you. Notice any enjoyable sensations from this – even if just a sliver.Become aware of something in your life that is supporting you or helping you to thrive. This could be a certification, a relationship, freedom, a job, food in the fridge, a place you feel comfortable, your legs holding you up, or even a couch holding you up. Think about what the benefits are of the one you would like to choose. How does it, or can it, benefit your thriving and wellness in life? Notice any enjoyable feelings in your body from this, even if slight in nature. Do this for several seconds.

Strengths

Because of the negativity bias that most people have, we often do not recognize and affirm our strengths. This is a resource that is untapped, which could be utilized. Think of strengths that you have shown and look at one of these strengths you could incorporate right now in this moment. Spend at least 30 seconds on incorporating this strength in a slow and relaxed manner as much as possible, and use present embodied awareness as you do it.

Strategize

Strategy is an important technique because anticipation, planning, and preparation are keys (along with hard work) for dealing with challenges. As you are reading this book, anticipate chapters might come next. Anticipate based on my past behaviour,  goals, . What chapters came before this? What chapters might come after (without looking at the table of contents again)?

Think of a mild to moderate problem. What are some possible results that you would like for the situation? Think of the core characteristics, qualities, or physical results. This could be retaining self-esteem, getting a job, repairing a relationship, or escaping a dangerous situation.

What might the cause and effects of your behaviour or the other person’s/environment’s behaviour be? You can think of life as a game of chess to some extent. Anticipating possible scenarios allows you to plan and prepare for them, thereby increasing the possibility of success. There may be many permutations of responses that you or the other person/environment can make. Let’s start with brainstorming these. Write down three possible permutations. Which ones seem the most likely? This involves thinking about factors such as their goals and intentions, temperament, impulsiveness, past behaviour, who they might speak to, what those other people want.

You may need to imagine being in their situation. To help do this, become aware of your body and at the same time move or imagine being in their body and moving the same way as theirs. Notice any feelings and thoughts that come up in your body as you do this. Prioritize which ones seem most likely. Use your knowledge of their or the environment’s value or reason for responding that way. This is the key to influencer the other person’s or entity’s behaviour or past behaviour

Anticipate

Anticipation can be a great asset because it allows you to plan for possible challenges, and thus have a greater chance of being ready and succeeding for them. Think of a minor to moderate challenge that you foresee with someone in the near future. What do you anticipate one of their reactions could be? Always anticipate what the repercussions of your actions and the actions of others will be.

The reason for this is because this can help to prevent calamities or strategize counters to attacks of any kind (physical, verbal, social politics, etc.). you want to be proactive about using your executive functions of mind/brain so that during parallel processing there is a shorter gap between the emotional interpretation and the conscious interpretation. Also, if your executive functions are already active there is a greater probability that inhibition and top-down regulation can occur allowing to to modulate the negatively, biased implicit memory laden, and generalized interpretation of implicit processing.

Accumulation

One principle that is very useful when trying to achieve anything that is of a grand scale is the principle of accumulation. Many people feel overwhelmed and this prevents them from trying in the first place. Do even just one thing and bring your awareness to the benefits of doing this, the sensations and feelings and experience of what the benefits would bring, and noticing that this is a drop in the bucket and over time this will eventually fill up.

One step

When exploring your thoughts and feelings, be attentive to the first thing that comes up. It may just be a slight sense. Relax your muscles a bit, slow your breathing and movement down to a comfortable pace. When you are in a comfortable and moderately relaxed state, you are able to understand the meaning of such thoughts and feelings simply through recognition and non-verbal understanding.

Be Aware of Your Positive (and Negative) Deeds

Throughout your day, take note of your actions that are in line with your values and principles. This can be useful for two reasons. One, that it builds up in your background memory (unconscious implicit memory) producing feelings of greater happiness, and two, because this can help guard against chronic feelings of guilt and is information that can be used to counter an accusation from another person. Being aware of your negative deeds is helpful so that you can enhance your disposition and behaviour to be more aligned with your values and principles for greater harmony with self, loved ones, society, and the environment.

Balance – Effort & Rest

When implementing, balance effort with ceasing of effort. Remember to tailor the amount to what feels good to you. This is just a matter of recognizing how you are feeling.

Clear

To make your life and interactions with others smoother, make your actions and language clear and unambiguous as much as possible. Use brevity and look at the underlying issue of what is going on, and what the actual feelings, intentions, and needs are that are beneath the overt action.

Emotional Boundaries

Be mindful of what feels comfortable and uncomfortable in all that you do, and control your action (mind or body) and environment as much as possible to create a healthy level of challenge – one that is not overwhelming that works for you.

Everything

We often employ just one approach to solving a problem or meeting a challenge. Remember to use your full potential by identifying and using your strengths (characteristics, abilities, etc), supports, resources, and past experience. What is one small challenge you are facing right now (start small). The purpose of this exercise is not to accomplish an external challenge at the moment, it is about building the skill and capacity so that you develop the ability to eventually deal with big challenges more effectively.

Gratitude

What are you thankful for? Think of three things (at least) right now. Be specific.

How Need Be

If you were already the way you want to be, how would you be thinking about yourself and the situation, how would you approach challenges, and how would you behave? This practice of imagining that you already have the desired way of being harnesses the brain’s remarkable ability to creatively construct perception.

Imitate a Model

Role models can provide us with a template from which to embody and learn sample patterns that can be extended and innovated upon for how to approach a problem, need, or situation. How would a role model or successful person view you and your situation? What might a role model or successful person do in this context? What might a role model or successful person think in this situation? What might a role model or successful person need in this situation?

Monitor What You Are Doing

Be aware of what you are doing as this self-monitoring puts your impulses and reactions in check. And this monitoring is foundational for self-sufficiency in relying on your own assessment of approval of your actions (this assessment is called an internal locus of evaluation). Sometimes our impulses and reactions can be maladaptive because they are based on perceptions from the negativity bias and generalizing tendency of the brain. And, because they may be based on past experiences.

We tend to see the present through the lens of past implicit memories and associations that our brain reacts to cues that even slightly resemble features of the original event, person, or object (and even characteristics of self). We tend to revert back to the qualities, characteristics, intellectual and physical capacity, and the options and resources we had at the time of the original event.

On Point

Make a conscious effort to be sharp, quick, efficient, and thorough in your thinking and awareness. Do not try too hard because this will impede the pattern recognition capacity of the right hemisphere. A balance of a relaxed gentle intention to be on point and allowing automatic thoughts that often come in the form of pattern recognition cognitions can help with this practice. One impediment to be aware of is that suppression (or repression) of automatic thoughts and feelings can prevent the useful information and capacity of the pattern recognition system of the right hemisphere.

Proactive

If someone accuses you, gets angry, and otherwise puts you on the defensive, identify what they are doing wrong in order to put them on the defensive. The active ingredient may be the activation of the seeking system (vs the Fear system) that is part of the predatory instinct and response.

Finding an aspect that activates your SEEKING system and RAGE system might help to align with your needs and feel more confident in situations where another wrongfully accuses you. Recall or imagine an experience where you felt confident, approved of, stable, certain, etc. Linger on this experience for 10 seconds and lightly be aware of your body as you do this.

This exercise can help to prime the brain and connect with the potential in you to be this as much as possible. Such an experience might be one of confidence, empowerment, certainty, stability, etc. Recalling or even imagining such an experience and embodying it through the techniques previously taught can help to build up the neural connections associated with it, and are necessary for the actions, feelings, mindset, and potential you have for this experience.

Rewards

Be aware of what the benefits and rewards might be for what you are wanting to be or have. This creates automatic motivation to engage in the behaviour (physical and psychological behaviour). Be specific and linger on the rewards for 10 seconds and lightly be aware and relax your body as you do. This activates the dopamine system in the brain and, in turn, stimulates motivation.

Let the possible rewards of the gains (for the outcome or the development process) be what reinforces and provides encouragement to you instead of approval from others that is based on self-worth) from others.

Progress can be either gains or effort. Gains relate to the measurable progress of the goal. Effort pertains to the progress in the development of the ability or capacity to make gains in the future.

Why

Always be aware of the reasons (the why) of what you are doing. This helps to check yourself about whether you are in line with your values and goals. To be aware of your values and goals, one way to get there is to think of what your likes and favourite things in life are and then evaluate the values and needs underlying these.

Past experience

Have you experienced this, or a similar, situation before? Or, do you know of anyone who has? What can you use or learn from these to better inform your current challenge? What wisdom and counsel could you glean from this to assist you?

Highest Unspoken Awareness

Chronic stress seems to contribute to a habit of mind where we do not use our fuller capacity for assessing a more complete picture of the situation at hand. This may be due to energy conservation during chronic stress, which could result in reacting to a situation based on a limited perspective even below our accessible capacity.

What is your highest unspoken awareness of what is important to remember in this situation? What is your highest unspoken awareness of what you are needing? What is your highest unspoken awareness of what is actually going on? What is your highest unspoken awareness of what the meaning is?