Tis the season…children caroling in the snow, families gathered round the hearth, visions of sugarplums dance in your head….or do they?
What if your images are less Currier and Ives and more Dali-esque? What if your experience of this season falls far short of what is “supposed to be”? That can leave you even more bereft than the original Scrooge dialogue running rampant in your interior!
We often experience our feelings as missiles from a malevolent universe and totally out of our control in spite of pop psychology’s assurance that we choose our feelings (We do but it is a complex process and a story for another day).
When you are feeling down, discouraged or sad, that little piece of knowledge falls just a bit short of helpful. And if you are a normal functioning human being you just may have some intense reactions to the messenger who tries to “help” you with this kind of reminder! BUT, if you were down and now you are angry, that actually can be a good thing! Why? Because when you are down, sad, despondent etc. your energy is frozen, depleted or inaccessible and the anger is a sign that something has shifted, opened up, or thawed out. Anger can be a very positive and motivating emotion at times.
Your emotions influence and impact your health and well-being in a big way. Esther and Jerry Hicks describe an emotional scale in their book, Ask and It Is Given (Hay House, 2004). David Hawkins, M.D., PhD has a similar one within the “Map of Consciousness” in his book Power vs. Force (Hay House, 1995, 1998, 2002). Feelings such as fear, grief, depression and despair are low on both emotional scales. Anger calibrates higher than blame on Hawkins’ map. Thus if you are blaming people for your situation and you can shift into feelings of anger, you’re improving!
During the holidays you may simply feel overwhelmed with all that you have to do. Try to consciously shift your feelings into frustration, irritation or impatience. You’ll actually feel better and you’ll have moved up the emotional scale.
If you are feeling pessimistic or even bored, thinking of a time when you were content, hopeful or even optimistic will lift your spirits. Remember the situation and try to get into that feeling state. What was happening and how did you really feel?
If you’re already feeling optimistic, you’re doing great! You can move into an even stronger emotional state by being enthusiastic about what you’re doing, being eager and happy. Passion is stronger than happiness. As you discover your passion, you’ll most likely follow it by feelings of joy, empowerment, love and appreciation.
We experience a variety of feelings everyday. They run vast and deep. Chances are you have different feelings for different events and different people. For instance, you might be bored at work, tired of doing the same thing day in and day out. Once you’re home you might feel discouraged that you can’t do anything about your situation, that things will never change. Since discouragement is lower on the emotional scale, the time you are working and feeling bored, is actually a better state for you! Similarly you may feel one way with your family and a completely different way with close friends.
This brings us to another point that can be trouble. Sometimes we want to move from one end of the spectrum to the other, E.G. from sad and despondent to joyous and ecstatic. This is not likely to happen all at once, and of course that only adds frustration, inadequacy and feelings of powerlessness to the equation. Does this give you an idea of how emotional spirals grow? Whatever you are thinking and feeling takes precedence!
One way to move out of a slump is to acknowledge your feelings, really feel them without holding on to them. Sometimes just letting feelings be, taking the label off, relaxing, breathing, letting go of resistance can be all that is needed. After all it is resistance that causes pain. This process of acknowledging your feelings can help release the intensity of emotions that seem to hold you powerless in their grip.
The next step is to see what is possible in terms of moving up the ladder of feeling. Don’t try to leap to joy or bliss but ask what feeling could I now realistically conjure up through memories, images, or fantasies? A slightly better feeling is all that is needed to help you shift into a better frame of mind. In fact, if you can get yourself into a better feeling state and stay there for as little as 17 seconds several times a day, you’ll be making progress.
The Institute of HeartMath has discovered that consciousness is enhanced, stress is reduced and health is improved with a simple technique that uses a heart focus to dispel troublesome emotions. The technique is called Attitude Breathing. This method helps to synchronize body, mind and spirit and provides inner ease when we are out of synch.
The method is performed by bringing your attention to the center of your chest, the heart chakra, and feel as though you are breathing in through that space; the out breath is focused through the solar plexus and you may want to feel as though you are releasing an unpleasant feeling with the exhale. Then, when you feel at ease and comfortable with that, you can switch to using your breath to increase feelings of gratitude or appreciation in the heart area. This may sound simple but there is some very complex energetic and neurohormonal activity that is triggered which has profound ramifications throughout the bodymind. All very interesting but more important…YOU WILL FEEL BETTER!
Give yourself a special gift this year that doesn’t cost any money. Give yourself the gift of feeling better. Practice Attitude Breathing. Feeling slightly better is all it takes!