This love note is about a powerful tool for stress reduction—alpha wave music.
I don’t know about you, but my last month was, shall we say, FILLED with stress. I may talk about that in a later newsletter, but the events of last month prompted me to share one of my favorite tools to help reduce stress, and focus more easily.
When alpha waves are produced in your brain, your body and mind calm down. A calm mind and body means reduced stress. Yay!
Not only do alpha waves help reduce our stress, they also increase our ability to use our mind. Alpha waves bring both hemispheres of our brain on-line, increasing our cognitive abilities, creativity, problem-solving, and ability to learn.
One of the fastest ways to generate alpha waves is through alpha wave music. (I’m listening to alpha wave music as I write this.)
There are many, many options out there for alpha wave music. Two of my favorites are:
DEEP ALPHA Relaxing Music plus Brainwave Entrainment for Meditation and Healing by Steven Halpern. You can find it at www. StevenHalpernMusic.com.
Welcome to the season of goal setting and self-flagellation!
I stopped setting New Year goals years ago, because I always started off the year feeling like a failure. I am not alone.
Research has shown that less than 25% of people are still keeping their goals by the end of January. Worse, only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.
Nevertheless, we are still driven to set big goals, create vision boards, buy gym shoes, and hope for huge changes–because of a day on the calendar.
(Don’t even get me started on how weird I think it is that we are supposed to be awake, excitedly happy, kissing someone, and jumping up and down blowing a horn because the clock goes from 11:59 to 12 on a cold, dark, night of the year…)
But back to the original topic…There is a lot of information out there on how to set goals and keep them. Yet we continue to fail. Why?
Most of us don’t keep our goals because we don’t believe we deserve them.
If you decide to set a goal for yourself, I suggest a small, gentle practice to help you create a shift in your beliefs.
Say to yourself “I’m the kind of person who (insert your goal.)”
I first learned this tool on a visit to the East Coast to meet with my coach. I stay with my friend Mellissa when I first arrive. I usually didn’t exercise on those trips, because the meetings start at 8am, (5am my internal clock time). That felt WAY too early for me to get up early to exercise.
Melissa asked me “do you want an idea to help with that?” Since she is a mindset maven, I of course answered “yes.” She said “say to yourself ‘I’m the kind of person who exercises.’”
I said it. It felt good. I said it several more times that day to Melissa. I said it before I went to bed. I said it when my alarm went off at 6am (3am my internal time.) And I got up and exercised! For good measure, I said it while I was exercising. That felt super good! That was a year ago, and I still use that practice when I’m on the East Coast. I feel SO much better having exercised before sitting all day.
Here are 4 reasons it worked.
I didn’t actually set a goal. I just kept repeating how I wanted to act. I didn’t qualify my success on a certain behavior. I just kept repeating to myself what I wanted to believe about myself.
I didn’t make the statement too audacious. I didn’t say “I’m the kind of person who exercises every day for an hour, for the rest of my life.” Ack! I would instantly rebel. That goal is too big and unforgiving. The first day I didn’t exercise, my goal would be a failure.
Because I chose a statement that was a stretch, but not too big, it felt good to say it. I literally felt better just by saying the statement.
I kept repeating the statement. Remember, beliefs are just thoughts we keep thinking. When we keep repeating a statement, positive or negative, it becomes a belief.
If you have a behavior you want to shift, practice saying “I’m the kind of person who (insert the behavior you want.). Notice how it feels to say that thought. If it doesn’t feel good, try other statements until you find one that feels good to say.
Repeat it. Say it out loud, write it on sticky notes, put a reminder on your phone, tell a friend. Repeat it until it feels like a belief about you. If you believe you are the kind of person who…you will be the kind of person who…
Why is the simple practice of gratitude so helpful? It is good for our brain and makes us more effective:
Positive emotions fill our brain with dopamine and serotonin. These chemicals make us feel good and increase our ability to learn. They help us process new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and remember it faster later on.
Feeling happy improves our ability to perform tasks and solve problems.
We feel better when we think happy thoughts. People who are grateful are more energetic and emotionally intelligent.
Gratitude is powerful!
Many years ago, I decided to try out this gratitude thing. It sounded good, but I always test things on myself to see if they work, before I share them with my clients. After 2-4 weeks of a daily gratitude practice, I noticed I started feeling spontaneously grateful throughout the day. It actually caught me by surprise! I could tell my neural pathways were being built and strengthened. What’s the best way to practice gratitude? Our neural pathways can be rewired faster if we have a feeling attached to the thoughts because it uses more of our brain. Here are two simple exercises you can do to help retrain your brain into grateful thinking:
Spend 30 seconds just FEELING gratitude. Pay attention to what is happening in your body. Do you feel your chest expanding? Do you feel it becoming bigger and warmer? Do you notice a change in your breathing? There is no right way to feel gratitude. Just notice how it feels in your body.
List 3 things for which you are grateful. Feel true gratitude for what you listed. Some people prefer lists, either written or spoken aloud. It can include the same things over and over again, or it can be as varied as you’d like.
When is a good time to do this practice? Morning sets you up for your day and bed-time thinking shapes how you perceive the experiences in your life. Both are important, and feel free to award yourself plenty of bonus points if you practice morning and night! While the time of day is an important factor, the most important part is the actual feeling. You can take 30 seconds at any point during the day to feel gratitude! Practice it and let me know how it works for you!
I am thrilled to announce I am offering my on-line course 7 Powerful Practices for Your Inner Perfectionist in January! What if everything you knew about being perfect was wrong?
Are you hard on yourself?
Do you worry about being judged by others?
Do you always judge your results as not good enough, no matter how hard you worked?
Do you want to be a better person?
If you answered “yes” to 2 or more of these questions, this course is for you!
Have you ever had thoughts that just keep repeating, and repeating…and repeating?
You try to stop them. You try to distract yourself, yet they just keep looping.
– Nope. Me neither. (Oh, how I wish that were true.)
If you are like most (read all) humans, you sometimes have thoughts that just won’t go away. It happened to me today, which is why I am sitting at my dining room table at 8 o’clock at night, writing this newsletter.
I got triggered and the story started. It is an old story, one I’ve played again, and again, many times in my life.
I tried distraction—e-mail didn’t work. I tried thinking of things I am grateful for—the intrusive thoughts kept shoving those thoughts aside. I went for a walk in nature—nope.
None of it worked.
So I brought out the workhorse of tools—filling my mind with a statement that is even more repetitive (because it was all I let myself think, and repeat without stopping) than my intrusive thoughts.
It worked, thank goodness, because the story I was running in my head was making me miserable. Here’s the thing though. It didn’t work after 5 minutes. It didn’t work after an hour. It did work after several hours. Remember, this is the work horse of tools, not the race horse.
Here’s what I do.
I choose a statement and proceed to repeat it like a mantra, without stopping.
I flood my consciousness with statements that bring me peace and calm instead of allowing the ones that create misery. And I keep repeating them. And repeating them. And repeating them.
If I stop and the pain-causing thoughts come back, I repeat my statement some more. I keep doing it until I break the stranglehold of my old story, and I have a choice over my thoughts again.
I have several statements I use to bring me into the present vs. the story that is bringing me pain. When working with clients, I help them craft good statements for them. Since you are reading this and not sitting in my office, I will give you three of my favorite ones to use in general.
I am loving myself.
Even though I am having these thoughts, I am loving myself.
The Loving Kindness Prayer I adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh:
May I be at peace. May I be free from suffering. May I be well. May I know the light of my own true nature.
This practice is not a quick, easy fix. It is not sexy. It takes persistence. It can take awhile to stop the intrusive thoughts, and it uses all your brain power. That is the whole point. When you have intrusive thoughts they hijack your thinking anyway. So you might as well choose what you want to think. You can choose to think thoughts that bring you pain, or thoughts that bring you peace.
Sometimes change happens one thought as a time.
If you are interested in gaining more tools, that are a little more fun, and just as effective, see below for the on-line course I will be offering in January called the 7 Powerful Practices for your Inner Perfectionist.
This month I am offering an interview I did with Dolores Hirschmann on Clarity TV. I LOVED doing it and I’m excited to share it with you! I tell my story of the event that set me on my path to self-love–when I learned to move from victim to choosing. I also share:
What to do with fear
The super-secret power of imagination
Affirmations that actually work!
At the very end, a tool to help you be kinder to yourself
Are you hard on yourself?
Are you afraid of being judged by others?
Do you always judge your results as not good enough, no matter how hard you worked?
In this episode, host Laura Reagan, speaks to Dr. Jane Tornatore about learning to be kind with ourselves. Dr. Jane Tornatore has dedicated her career to helping people be kinder to themselves. Her style incorporates compassion, curiosity, deep listening, and heartfelt optimism, along with powerful shots of playfulness. She draws on her extensive professional training and wide-ranging life experiences to help people release old patterns and unnecessary stress.