Blog : Wellness

Change Your Thoughts: Procrastination

Change Your Thoughts: Procrastination

Do you ever feel like it is impossible to get started on a task? Are you so worried about measuring up to the expectations that you or others have put on you, that you procrastinate on the projects you know that you should be working on? People who procrastinate have higher levels of stress and anxiety. You may know that putting off important tasks is what is causing you anxiety, but you might feel as if you can’t stop. This is a result of the thoughts and beliefs you have about yourself and the work that you are doing. With effort, these thoughts can be changed, and you can free yourself from the mental prison your procrastination has put you in.

It is important to know that procrastination is not a flaw in your character, and it doesn’t mean that you are a bad person who can’t take care of yourself or function in society. It is actually something we do when we are trying to cope with negative thoughts and feelings. The core of this issue is not being able to regulate your emotions. You might feel that the task is boring, difficult, or just downright unpleasant, and that gets you stuck in a cycle of procrastination. This is surface-level. Procrastination can also run deeper than this. You can be struggling with feelings of self-doubt, low self-esteem, or anxiety. You may feel that you aren’t smart enough to complete the task, or that you won’t be perfect at it, so you shouldn’t bother doing it.

Here are some ways you can change your thoughts and avoid procrastination:

Think of your future self as a friend and not a stranger

Not thinking about how your actions will affect your future self can impact you greatly. Instead of focusing on the long-term consequences, we hone in on our short-term needs and end up putting things off to ease our anxiety in that moment. This only harms us, giving us an underlying current of stress that we can’t exactly put our finger on. You don’t need to beat yourself up about this because it’s just the way your brain is wired. The task that you are putting off is now a threat to your mind, activating the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for the flight or fight response. It helps to not be so detached from your future self and thinking that completing your task is a problem for somebody else. Instead, show your love for yourself by making the effort for your future self. You are always your own partner.

Forgive yourself when you procrastinate

It is normal to procrastinate–everyone does it. If you shame yourself when you do it, however, you will fuel the cycle even further. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding in the face of your mistakes and perceived failures. Having compassion for yourself and being non-judgemental is a way to get past your procrastination, and will prevent you from procrastinating in the future because it decreases negative emotions and increases feelings of self-worth and optimism. If the root of procrastination is low self-esteem, you can boost your self-esteem immensely when you are patient and kind to yourself, even when you make mistakes.

Cultivate curiosity

When you feel like you can’t focus on the task at hand or your other important projects, curiously examine what sort of thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. What sensations do you notice? Where do you feel them? When you observe the thoughts you have about procrastinating, what happens to those thoughts? Do they go away, intensify, or cause other emotions to come up? Do they shift as you continue to focus on them? This doesn’t have to be from a place of fear, but gentle curiosity.

Get started on tasks by committing to only work on them for a few minutes.

If after a few minutes you still don’t feel like finishing the task, you can be proud of yourself for putting in five minutes of work into the project. However, many times, this is just the push we need to finish what we have been putting off. Doing this is a great way to get yourself out of the rut that procrastination causes because you aren’t putting an insane amount of pressure on yourself. Instead, you are allowing yourself to ease into the task, and giving yourself an opportunity to exit, which lowers your expectations and the pressure those expectations put on you.

Through all of this, it is important to remember that you aren’t perfect, and the people that love you unconditionally do not expect you to be perfect. Making mistakes is a part of life, so if you are doubting yourself and afraid to do something wrong, try giving yourself a little more love and understanding. Mistakes can be your greatest teacher, and if you keep procrastinating and you never try, you’ll never experience those wonderful learning opportunities.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts. Alli’s interests include painting, history, learning about other people, and wearing the color pink. She likens herself to a “mouse in a palm tree”, and she loves it that way.

Chakra Healing Explained

Chakra Healing Explained

Yoga has been a part of my life for over a decade, but it wasn’t until my yoga teacher training that I began to fully understand chakras and how balancing chakras positively affects mind, body, and soul. If you have been making attempts to work on yourself yet aren’t quite seeing the results you anticipated, perhaps chakra healing is something to look into!

Balancing your chakras is important.

Chakras are spinning energy centers in the body that correlate with nerve bundles and internal organs. When your chakras are balanced, you will feel peace, strength, inner knowing, and be in touch with your intuition and the world around you. Imbalances manifest as emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, trauma, programming from childhood, and attachment issues to name a few. Physical manifestations of chakra imbalances can affect every system in the body, depending on the issue. Feelings of disconnect, lack of meaning in life, and lack of inner “sight” are some soul manifestations of imbalance.

Chakra balancing will help you expand your consciousness.

Sometimes it is easier for our Western or masculine inquiring mind to comprehend the physical and mental effects of a chakra out of balance. I’m sure you have heard and experienced heartache before. For example, our heart chakra (Anahata), is the development and expression of love, communication, higher qualities of compassion, and kindness. An imbalanced heart chakra is associated with physical symptoms such as cardiac, circulatory, and respiratory problems.

As a licensed mental health counselor, chakra healing is a different way to look at a difficulty someone is experiencing. Therapy is a wonderful way to identify and work through chakra imbalances. Combining therapy and other modalities can be synergistic, creating a powerful impact. Mental health therapy can be combined with modalities like acupuncture, sound healing, Chinese or Aryuvedic medicine, yoga, Reiki, Qigong, Tai Chi, and more. Become a student of life and enjoy the process of learning and expanding your consciousness.

Add chakra healing to your toolbox to heal emotional wounds.

Eastern practices and philosophies offer us a multitude of ways to heal our emotional wounds, find relief from physical ailments, and expand our consciousness. Albert Einstein stated, “We cannot solve a problem with the same thinking the same thinking that created them”. Adding chakra healing techniques to your well-being toolbox might be what you have been looking for to move through and heal emotional wounds. 

Everything is energy. Emotion is energy in motion. If you find a way to shift the energy, your outlook and path can align with the way envision your life to be.

You can join Kristie, who is a registered yoga teacher, in a 6-week chakra healing group to help you break free from unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors. Register here today!

Kristie Powell is a therapist who specializes in yoga-informed therapy, DBT, and mindfulness. Since 2008, yoga and mindfulness have been her constant companions through life transitions, career changes, and motherhood. Through these practices, she was able to gain a deep understanding of herself and the world around her. She had more compassion, fun, and inner peace. One of the most beautiful aspects of life is that we create the meaning in our lives; which puts us in the driver’s seat and in control of our happiness.

Moving Through Anxiety

Moving Through Anxiety

Have you ever felt like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? If you would have checked your posture at that time, you might have noticed slumped shoulders, tension, and a collapsed chest. The mind-body connection is very much real, and your emotional difficulties are manifested physically. William James, a psychologist and philosopher in the 1880’s, stated that emotion is the mind’s conceptualization of physical sensation. You experience a physical sensation, and the mind assigns an interpretation to the sensation (Osman, 2019).

 

Take a moment to reflect on where you feel anxiety in your body

Perhaps your jaw, shoulders, chest, or stomach. Your mind attaches meaning and thoughts to this emotion (i.e. “I can’t do this” or “I feel out of control”). This effects your behaviors by avoiding situations, people, or places. To break this cycle of anxiety, in CBT a therapist might help you first examine symptoms, triggers, and core beliefs contributing to the anxiety.

All of this is wonderful, however a roadblock to long-term success is in remembering the information and staying grounded while applying what you have learned. Do you recall standing up in grade school in front of the class to read something? Do you remember what you read more or how you felt while you were standing up? Anxiety puts us in a fight-flight-freeze response. If we do not first feel safe and grounded, we will not be able to fully access the parts of our brain that affect speech, complex decision-making, and understanding different perspectives.

 

Get grounded with movement.

Movement combined with CBT facilitates grounding, feeling safe, and creating a stable environment for emotional healing. As a yoga teacher and mental health therapist, I find that yoga teaches us to experience discomfort in the moment, as it is, without attempting to escape. Deep insight into yourself is also achieved by combining the two modalities. My yoga instructor would often say to us “you approach yoga asana (poses) how you approach everything else in your life”. She is completely correct. If you notice yourself consistently pushing and forcing yourself into a yoga pose beyond your current limit, how else might you be pushing yourself too far at work or at home? Sometimes experiencing this physically is so much more powerful and impactful than attempting to understand it with the mind.

 

Find a therapist that’s right for you.

Emotional wounds can also become trapped in our physical body. There becomes a disconnect; we get sad or anxious, but we do not know why. Movement combined with CBT opens the door for you to calm the mind and let go of hypervigilance, deeply understand your body, regulate emotions, and root yourself in the present moment. Our anxious mind lives in a future tense, when we root ourselves in the here and now, anxiety dissipates. One of the responses from a yoga study implemented by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD summarizes the potential benefits of yoga and mental health therapy combined: “I can express my feelings more because I can recognize them more. I feel them in my body, recognize them, and address them” (Van Der Kolk, p. 2014).

 *Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Kristie Powell is a therapist who specializes in yoga-informed therapy, DBT, and mindfulness. Since 2008, yoga and mindfulness have been her constant companions through life transitions, career changes, and motherhood. Through these practices, she was able to gain a deep understanding of herself and the world around her. She had more compassion, fun, and inner peace. One of the most beautiful aspects of life is that we create the meaning in our lives; which puts us in the driver’s seat and in control of our happiness.

Why is therapy so hard for men?

Why is therapy so hard for men?

I’ve been in several therapy groups throughout my mental health career, and one thing I found profoundly strange was the frequent absence of other men seeking assistance with their mental health. When I wasn’t the only man in a given therapy group, there was perhaps only one other man sharing their struggles with mental illness. According to my research, only one third of patients in treatment for mental illness are men. Why do so few men seek therapy?

Men are taught from an early age to bottle up most of our feelings.

 

Men are socialized to repress most of their feelings, aside from rage, in order to fit with our societal definition of what manhood means. It is socially acceptable for little boys to roughhouse with one another in anger without fear of reprisal from their fathers, but the same cannot be said for acts of emotional intimacy or vulnerability. A man can see another man screaming violently at another human being without it violating their conceptualization of manhood in a way that seeing another man openly cower or weep does not. A boy who is emotionally vulnerable might live in fear of being labeled a “sissy” or any number of sexist or homophobic taunts meant to wound his masculinity, and that fear persists unconfronted in many men throughout their adulthood.

As men, the glimpses of vulnerability we might be fortunate enough to see are modeled mostly by women and queer people.

 

Many of us internalize this and assume that emotional vulnerability and communication are not compatible with the masculine archetype. In the pursuit of performing this role, we cut ourselves off from vital elements of our own human experience, and close the door on the sort of insight and investigation we might find through therapy.

Men are told that our masculinity hinges on a very narrow and specific definition of strength.

 

A definition that does not include asking for or deserving help, much less needing it. We are led to believe that our role is to give and provide. On its face, this belief may not appear to be toxic at all, but that is exactly what makes it so insidious and challenging to confront. Personally, I have pursued this belief to the edge of my own ruin. I believed that it was my purpose to work, sleep, and suffer through my illnesses (physical or mental), insecurities, and intrusive thoughts in silence for the betterment of the people who relied on me.

 

So what can we do to challenge the beliefs that keep us out of therapy, and what can the people who love us do to encourage our journey into recovery? If you are a man struggling under the weight of mental illness, I think the most powerful and masculine thing you could do is take accountability for your pain by seeking the treatment of a professional. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t try to x-ray it and put a cast on it yourself, so why would you expect that your healing your mind would work any different? If a loved one is suffering under their mental illness and refuses to seek help, you cannot force them into recovery, but you can set clear boundaries so that you do not bear the brunt of their mental illness, and you can provide an environment of open and honest communication where therapy is encouraged. It is hard work going to therapy, especially if you feel that you should be able to work through your difficulties on your own in silence, but I promise that it is much harder to go on through life carrying the burden of your past by yourself.

Therapy for men is incredibly important. Click here for more mental health resources.

 *Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Sunny Ebsary is a writer and singer-songwriter from Tampa, FL. When he’s not sing-songwriting or just regular writing, he’s probably drinking water with a lot of ice, having a staring contest with his cat, or giving people great ideas. You can listen to Sunny’s music here.

How Friendships Enrich Our Lives

How Friendships Enrich Our Lives

For National Best Friend’s Day, we are celebrating the joys of friendship! Friendships enrich your life and your experiences in this world. They offer companionship, bring you joy, and help you grow. Some friendships are so strong that they outlive marriages, moves across the country, and even the relationships we have with our parents. It is all in the magic of platonic love, which is an incredibly special form of love that we share with our friends.

Platonic love is just as important as romantic love, if not more. It shows humans that deep love can exist outside of sexual and romantic attraction to one another. It is loving someone for who they are at their core, connecting with them, and developing a bond so strong that you feel like you have the ability to say any nonsense that pops into your head.

When we grow up and transition into adulthood, finding friends that truly get you are harder to come by. As adults, we naturally build up walls to protect ourselves from people with ill intentions. We learn that not everyone is who they say they are, not everyone loves you as much as you love them, and not everyone truly wants to see you succeed. It becomes difficult to break these barriers down and connect with one another, leaving us feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied in our relationships. We need friendships to get through life–our marriages, our relationship with our parents and sibilings, etc. Without that healthy foundation in our friendships, it becomes difficult to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

A good, healthy friendship can change your life in so many ways. Friends teach you about yourself, and help develop a strong sense of self-awareness that many of us are lacking. We need some tough love every once in a while, and a true friend provides that guidance and understanding without abandoning the friendship altogether. We need someone who loves and cares for us deeply to “tell it like it is” so we can become a better version of ourselves and grow together. A lack of support leads to a greater chance of depression and anxiety. Investing in the loving, supportive friendships you have will greatly enrich your life and benefit you in the long-term. It is important to cultivate these platonic relationships in order to be the healthiest version of ourselves and to lead happier and healthier lives.

For more information about tough love and friendship, check out friendship coach/expert  Danielle Bayard Jackson!

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, nature, and learning about other people.

How to Reduce Stress with Creative Writing

How to Reduce Stress with Creative Writing

Lately, it feels as if there is this uncomfortable, worried energy that surrounds us. It affects us even when we aren’t at our most vulnerable, and it can be hard to move past that anxiety and worry without the proper tools. Reduce stress with creative writing! Getting creative and writing about your feelings is one of the best methods for alleviating unwanted anxiety.

Creative writing is a wonderful way to reduce stress because it allows us to really sit with our emotions and dig under the surface. Writing reduces stress because it helps people process their thoughts and emotions. It also helps you view the situation in a different way, because your thoughts have to be processed slowly in order to get the words down on paper. Writing is a safe place for you to let go of your bottled emotions without worrying about other people judging you.

In addition, creativity stimulates the brain, and it allows your mind to only focus on the task in front of you. This makes it more difficult for the mind to wander off to dark places. We spend a lot of time and mental energy on our problems–what if we put all that energy into creating another world?

Furthermore, the work that you create allows you to reflect on yourself. Self-reflection coupled with creative writing can strengthen your outlook on life because it helps you become more mindful. If you have a clear idea of who you are and what you are feeling, it is easier to find a solution.

Finally, if you want to start writing, do not let the fear of “not being good enough” stop you from starting your writing journey. Cozying up in a quiet corner, putting on relaxing music and taking deep breaths will help you focus on writing. If you aren’t sure what to write about, here are some helpful prompts.

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, history, and learning about other people.

5 Things We Love About Art Therapy

5 Things We Love About Art Therapy

1. Art therapy helps express what words cannot

Creating art helps cultivate self-expression, communication skills, and the ability to reach out and ask for help. The creative process helps individuals who are struggling slowly begin to express themselves and take the necessary steps to move forward.

2. Creating puts you in a meditative state

Making art puts you into a calm, thoughtful state because you are using more of the right brain and channeling your intuition. This helps you recognize the feelings that are hidden in your subconscious.

3. Making art helps build self-esteem

Creating art makes you feel accomplished, which plays an important role in improving your self-confidence and helps you to better appreciate yourself.

4. Art therapy uses the entire brain

In art therapy, both hemispheres of the brain are being used. Art therapists are able to promote this by encouraging full creativity and spontaneity as well as the ability to communicate and have a logical understanding of what is being expressed.

5. Making art improves mental health

Taking the time to sit down and make something forces the mind and body to sit with the feelings that come up and work through them. Over time, this practice strengthens the mind and mental health sky-rockets.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

About the Author

Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, history, and learning about other people. 

How Sleep Improves the Brain

How Sleep Improves the Brain

     Nothing compares to how refreshing and restoring a full night’s rest is.  Getting good sleep improves the brain and it truly feels as if you have been healed. It is like your brain has expanded its awareness and is regenerating its cells. As a matter of fact, this is exactly what is occurring as you sleep.

    As your breathing slows and your muscles relax, your brain begins to pour growth hormones into the body that help with muscle growth and tissue repair. Additionally, the neurons finally have their break and can rest and repair while you rest, making it so your mind works more quickly and accurately the next day.

     As your brain is resting, it is able to process all the information it has ingested that day, and chooses what to keep and what to fade out. This helps the brain categorize things and create new ideas based on the connections it makes during REM sleep to older memories.

    This helps your brain operate the next day, giving you more creative ideas the better you sleep the night before and leading you towards your “a-ha!” moment where you are discovering something exciting and new. If you didn’t get adequate sleep the night before, your brain won’t focus on coming up with anything new or creative, just rebooting or crawling into bed. 

    To avoid feeling like your brain has gone on vacation, make sure you are getting enough sleep so that your brain has a chance to process and repair. Everyone’s body is different, however, it’s important to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night.

    If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, try setting up a bedtime routine that works for you. Enhance your bedroom by making it cozy with sleepy lavender scents, put on calming meditation music, and cuddle up to a soft, fuzzy blanket. Let your mind breathe and regenerate.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, history, and learning about other people.

Why Alchemy?

Why Alchemy?

Thoughts of alchemy might stir in you images of deluded men during the Middle Ages who tinkered with dangerous substances, such as mercury and sulfur, trying to create gold from lead. You might then wonder why in the world I’m writing about alchemy.

It is true; there were many charlatans promising riches and eternal life while creating hydrochloric and nitric acid in the process. However, what is less well-known is the spiritual foundation at the core of alchemy.

Alchemy is the art of transmutation, or the transformation of a given substance into a higher one – whether it be lead to gold or higher states of consciousness. It dates back thousands of years and evolved independently in multiple advanced civilizations, including China, India, and Greece and became a discipline of scholarly study in Ancient Egypt.

Throughout its history, alchemy could be roughly divided into two branches – “the practical” and “the inner”. The practical sometimes referred to as “puffers and blowers”, were concerned with creating physical wealth and healing elixirs.

The inner alchemists concentrated on the transformation of the self and facilitation of divine truths. The transformation inner alchemists were actually describing was one of awakening consciousness. They believed that the work of the individual alchemist had the power to inform and influence the whole of creation.

Carl Jung brought alchemy back into Western canon. In his book, Mysterium Coniunctionis, he helped elucidate the spiritual and psychological underpinnings of these ancient and esoteric teachings. Jung emphasized that symbolic expressions of states of consciousness can be made manifest through dreams, creativity, and active imagination. And, through the act of making the unconscious conscious, we are creating meaning and affecting change within the psyche.

Both alchemy and Jung speak extensively about the union of opposites within the psyche. For example, Jung termed the male and female parts of the psyche, within each of us, anima and animus. Further “opposites” to be integrated include shadow and light, young and old and the conscious and unconscious.

In alchemy, the first “conjunction” is to unite the conscious and unconscious. However, the ultimate goal is to join spirit and matter, generating the “philosopher’s stone” or magnum opus. Enlightened figures such as the Buddha and Jesus Christ are thought to have reached this final stage of the inner alchemical process.

An everlasting advantage of alchemy is that it can be understood as “a map” of spiritual development. However, this is not without caution. It is very easy to get “lost in the sauce”. Many brilliant minds have debated “the stages” of alchemy and which steps come first, second and last. And, the debate endures, even today.

It is my opinion that the stages are not linear, and I believe it is possible to experience multiple stages simultaneously in various areas of our lives. This is not meant to mystify the process, but rather to provide reassurance that there is a way through, but it might not be what we expect.

Furthermore, I contend that the separation between practical and inner alchemy is a false divide. It is fundamental to do both our inner work and to live out that purpose in our outer lives. That is how the inner and practical, personal and communal, unite.

If you enjoyed this article and want a firsthand encounter with your inner alchemist, click here.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

 

Dayna Wood Creative Life Coach

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed-out professionals how to reignite their innate creative wisdom and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science.

The Pain of Gratitude

The Pain of Gratitude

There is something fundamentally challenging about gratitude that goes beyond remembering to practice it. If I truly admit how damn fortunate I am, I usually experience a myriad of feelings: pure love, then guilt, and then sheer terror.

Guilt and terror? That might surprise you. After all, we practice gratitude to help us become more positive and serene, and more appreciative of the good things in our lives. But sometimes, when I’m thinking about how grateful I am for the people, places and things in my life, I can become paralyzed by the thought of all of it just…vanishing. And that’s a terrifying thought indeed.

I don’t believe this stems from a fear of abandonment, or an attachment disorder issue. Rather, it comes from a deep understanding that everything is temporary. My four-year old daughter, jumping up and down naked on the bed, laughing with pure glee, will soon be a memory. My almost-seventeen-year-old cat, who likes to snuggle in the mornings, will also be gone. As will my partner someday.

So, the question becomes: how do I allow myself to fully open and experience the absolute love and gratitude that abounds in these moments, while also fully comprehending that it will never be the same again?

This is not a rhetorical, philosophical question. Really, how do we receive and embrace the good, when we know it can’t last?

I’m reminded of a Carl Jung quote regarding dichotomy (the division between two mutually exclusive or contradictory situations): “But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites…”

When I practice tools that help me become more comfortable with dichotomy, I’m better able to sit with this tension without reacting. These reactions typically take the form of any number of distractions and unproductive behavior, including negativity.

While our brains are wired for negativity and, as I mentioned in a previous post, it kept our ancestors alive, we now know we can actually rewire our brains. Ironically, gratitude is one of the best ways to accomplish this. (See Rick Hanson’s work for more on the brain’s negativity bias).

However, if the experience of gratitude can be painful, then where does that leave us?

There are a few mind/brain hacks you can use to hold dichotomy or, as I call it, brain integration. To give an oversimplified description, our brains have two hemispheres, the left and the right, and they quite literally understand the world differently. The left hemisphere sees things in black and white, yes or no, one way or the other. But the right hemisphere allows for a multitude of shades and colors. It can tolerate the tension of division, and can begin to detect webs, or patterns, that are impossible to see when viewed only in a linear fashion (e.g., yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad, etc.).

So how do we facilitate the integration of these two parts of our brains? Well, we have to start by flexing the hemisphere that is most atrophied, which is – unsurprisingly – the right hemisphere. When we have an awareness that these right-brain experiences are 1. available, and 2. valuable, we can bring back the subtle, yet powerful, knowledge of the right hemisphere into our everyday experiences.

How do we begin to “listen” to the vast amount of information offered to us from the right-hemisphere?

First, we have to listen in a different way, as the messages we receive will “sound” different from what we’re used to. For instance, our bodies speak volumes and are directly connected to the right hemisphere. We can start to become aware of the ways our bodies “talk” to us. You might feel queasy when you’re about to give a presentation at work. Or you get goosebumps when watching a scary movie.

Our intuition is also talking to us all the time. Intuition has gotten a bad rap over the years, with many people feeling it’s “airy fairy” or “woo-woo”. However, our intuition is actually “the ability to understand something immediately”. It’s a sense of knowing. And it’s the way the right hemisphere works: by instantly taking in and comprehending the whole picture. Think about the feeling you get when you know someone is lying to you. You might not have proof, but you just know. Or when you get a really good “feeling” about an interview candidate. Eureka moments are possible in this state!

I’m not suggesting that analysis and mental dissection, which are classic left-hemisphere attributes, are not valuable. They absolutely are. However, we tend to get “stuck” in this way of knowing without allowing or acknowledging input from the right hemisphere. As a result, we miss out on the opportunity to understand the situation from a different perspective; one in which the whole (or gestalt) can be understood.

The right hemisphere doesn’t use everyday language (which is housed in the left hemisphere) to communicate. It usually “speaks” without words – you get a gut feeling, or an image or diagram pops into your head seemingly out of nowhere. So, we have to listen in different ways:

  • Making art

  • Creativity (crafting, cooking, gardening, etc.)

  • Spending time in nature

  • Stepping back to see the whole picture – what I call “zooming out”

  • Being embodied (practicing yoga, dancing, etc.)

  • Listening to music

These are just a few ways you can practice tuning into your brain’s right hemisphere.

Bringing this information into our daily lives does take a certain amount of trust. However, when we begin to consciously listen and make the effort to become familiar with what might at first feel very foreign, uncomfortable, and maybe even undefined or wishy-washy, and then implement this knowledge, more will follow.

The right brain can become a storehouse of valuable wisdom. And, it can be really fun (humor and wit are also right-brain attributes!). With a bit of practice, we can become more familiar and comfortable with the opaque and the dichotomous. And getting comfortable operating from this place can feel like coming home.

Ultimately, we’ll be able to more easily manage the sometimes terrifying feelings that can come up when practicing gratitude. And that’s something we can be truly thankful for.

 

*Sign Up for our free 9 Essential Ingredients To Court Your Creativity PDF. Learn nine crucial skills you can implement RIGHT NOW to increase your creativity by stepping back into your right brain! Click here to sign up.

 

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science.