If you’re pretty “normal” you think 60,000 thoughts a day. 90% of those thoughts are the same thoughts you had yesterday and unless you work at it, 80% of those are most likely negative.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the world you live in can sometimes present itself as quite negative. So, at any given time there could be a lot of negativity running around in your head. Some of those negative thoughts are based on reality and others are based on a brain that evolved to look out for danger and not necessarily for happiness.
Your brain is designed to keep you safe, not happy. And so, deep inside it is a small structure called the amygdala which stores all the negative things that have happened to you (and other members of your tribe) so it’s readily available to reference when something appears to be threatening. I refer to the amygdala lovingly as “The little database of horrors.” It’s a handy reference point for anything that has ever hurt us in any way. It’s really useful. But sometimes it runs the show!
In the technicolor media-saturated world we are living in now, sometimes it’s hijacked as many as 50 times a day. And that was before the Corona Virus descended on us.
It’s the part of the brain responsible for initiating the fight-flight-freeze reaction. When we really need to fight, flee or play dead because we are being attacked by a real predator, chased in a parking lot, or get a kid out of the way of an oncoming car, it’s a lifesaver! While in the midst of this vital reaction though, all the non-essential systems in your body shut down for a good 6 hours or so. Digestion, elimination, and your immune system all shut down so you can react appropriately to the threat!
Makes sense – while you are trying to look for an escape route – your body doesn’t need to be digesting, it need to be running.
Here’s the challenge. It’s estimated that Americans activate that response not once a week or month – but daily – up to 50 times a day.
If that’s the case (and even if it’s only half true) dozens of times a day your body essentially shuts down its immune function, digestive and elimination systems – anything not essential for “FFor F” – for approximately 6 hours, give or take.
Same thing for anger. If you allow yourself the luxury of anger for more than 5 minutes – down go all those precious bodily functions – the ones that keep you safe and healthy.
As we learned from the pandemic, precautions are necessary – but panic is counterproductive.
To think creatively it’s important to monitor our thinking and focus on the things that will support our well-being now and in the future. So as a happiness coach, I’d like to make suggestions for staying in the state of body and mind that will build your immune system, help make you a calming – and not catastrophic – influence on others, and give you what you need physically and emotionally to stay in a state of well-being no matter what.
Be Intentional – Set the intention, hourly if you need to, to be present to the situation in a calm and rational manner. The odds are if you are reasonably healthy and take reasonable precautions you may be uncomfortable for a while, but you will be fine. Be sure to avoid “catastrophizing.” The odds are in favor of your health.
Be Vigilant – Pay attention to your attention. Notice what you notice. Notice where that attention is going for where attention goes, energy flows. Self-correct as needed.
Be Accountable – Until new behaviors become habitual keep a list of the new healthy habits you are installing to help keep you strong. If you make yourself accountable to self and others to meditate, exercise, and eat clean and nutrient-packed foods (while eliminating junk, sugar and even alcohol) you’ll be more able to present as a leader to team and family. And you will be a great example.
Be Grateful – Are you warm, fed, and dry right now? Do you have caring people in your life? Are you safe at this moment? Sink into a state of deep gratitude and appreciation and focus on that.
Be Aware and Be in Choice – Especially during a time like this, when your energy is being hijacked constantly by all the scary things that could happen, it’s important to be clear about the choices you make. You can choose to feel positivity, happiness or joy even in the midst of chaos.
You can choose perspective and optimism despite what you hear from the media. When you feel yourself moving into fear – ask yourself – where would I rather be?
Fear will get you motivated – but if you let it hang around it will get you marinated in chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline that will – over the long term – shut down your vital systems often enough to make you sick.
Arm yourself with positivity and choose it – every 10 minutes if you have to.
Be Truthful – If it’s hard to find these “turnarounds” then call for help. There are many people – including me – to help support your positive intentions and teach you the skills of optimistic people.
Be Giving – Once you’ve got your own mask on, help others. Once you have found the state of mind that helps keep you calm, present and positive, share it with others. Be empathetic and giving to others who are traveling on a different path.
Be Intuitive – Once you find that calm state of mind and body, tap into it frequently to help you make choices. The more you go to your heart, breathe deeply and slow down, the more you will be able to tap into your intuition and your innate intelligence. Since the subconscious mind picks up way more information than the conscious mind, you can tap into a wealth of ideas when you slow it all down and connect in.
Be Kind – Now is the time for more kindness in our lives. There’s a big bonus to being kind – the person that gives the kind act, the person receiving the kindness both receive a boost of serotonin – that’s the biochemical known at the “rest and digest” hormone. And even more amazing? If someone witnesses you giving a kindness – their bodies secrete more serotonin too! Triple wonderful!
BE On Purpose – The more that you are aligned with your purpose in life the easier life becomes. Doors open, the Universe co-operates, the less effort you need to expend to get things done, If you don’t know what your purpose is, explore! This is a good time to evaluate where you are and make sure it’s where you want to be.
Positive emotions BUILD immunity. Positivity increases your production of T-cells which build your immune function. It increases your serotonin, and give you a boost of endorphins – which are the body’s natural opioids to help with pain and coping with change. It increases oxytocin with is the “tend and befriend” chemical and helps deepen connections between people. It releases norepinephrine with plays a role in keeping us out of depression!
So much of what I teach is about how to employ mind mastery to stay focused, be intentional and open the space to lead with your heart.
We are all in this together – let’s be inspired to take better care of ourselves first and take better care of others as well.
Originally published in the print version of NorthEast CareWasher magazine. No online copies out there!