COVID-19 has given many people pause to reflect about their priorities and to make changes.
It’s hard to know any real statistics on how many people made long and lasting changes to their habits and lifestyles and how many people felt (and maybe still feel) stuck in the flight/fight/freeze response to COVID-19.
Psychologist Rick Hanson suggests that, of a group of people facing a life-altering opportunity or challenge, typically one third make significant and lasting changes, one third make some changes, and one third stay stuck or end up in a worse situation.
The good news is that you can move out of the stress response and back into a window of tolerance so you can navigate towards feeling better in your body and the wellness outcome you want.
Two key elements are being willing to pause and being willing to feel. Here are three short practices. You can focus on one or work with all three.
Keep a clear image of how you want to feel in your body
Feeling better might be described as being steadier, lighter, clearer, in less pain, more warm-hearted, more energetic, more open, more flexible, more peaceful, happier, more content or stronger. You may have other ideas on what feeling better means to you.
Once you are able to identify what better feels like, you now have a goal or touchstone to keep in mind. Invite yourself to feel one or two of these qualities in your body for 10 seconds right now.
Banish limiting beliefs
Identify what is getting the way of feeling better. Some of the barriers may be thoughts like:
• I don’t deserve it. Why should I feel good when there is so much suffering in the world?
• I don’t have time. Too many people depend on me and I have too much to do to think of myself.
• I’m sick or in chronic pain, so feeling better isn’t even available to me.
• I’m too stressed and can’t even imagine feeling good or better right now, if ever.
If you have the thought “I’d like to, but…” there is a barrier to entry. Feeling better is available to you, but requires you to be willing to press pause on the thought pattern or belief.
There are very simple practices for this and the simplest takes a single minute, the One Minute Meditation.
Take a single minute to pause, set a timer and focus on something in this present moment – the feeling of the chair underneath you and your feet on the floor; noticing the sounds in the space around you; or feeling the temperature of the air against your skin. Absorb your full attention into this thing.
Even within 60 seconds you may find that your mind wants to wander back to its habitual thoughts, so gently return your attention to the chair, sounds or air on skin. Even if you have to usher yourself back 10 times in 60 seconds, it is worth the effort.
This practice will give you a taste of feeling better for this one minute. Allow yourself to marinate in feeling okay and absorb this into your body. With enough repetition, you can turn this state of feeling better into a long-lasting trait.
Develop a gratitude practice
It may sound cliché, but it is a powerful practice and turns everyday ordinary experiences into meaningful ones. Again, it requires you to press pause and reflect on your experiences, as ordinary as they may be, and honor things you may take for granted.
For example, we don’t notice our generally good health until something hurts or we become ill, but consciously remembering how you felt on a walk or exchanged a smile with someone in passing or enjoyed petting a furry friend makes meaning from everyday experiences.
As you become more attuned to how you are feeling, as you press pause for one minute several times a day for these practices, slowly that one minute practice will turn to two, which will then turn to three, and so on until your awareness permeates every moment of your day and feeling better becomes normal. The state becomes a trait and that feels good.
Trauma-sensitive Yoga Therapist