What is your favorite positive feeling? These days, I think I will take contentment, and a sense of quiet pride.
And that feeling comes from looking back over the last 30 years at the effective choices of my life, choices that did entail hard work, but paid off.
I did not always take the easier, softer way, sometimes I took the road less traveled, and made it through.
I have learned a great deal about the inside of me, and how I operate emotionally.
While I am feeling content at this moment, all I need to do to create a feeling of shame is remember some crazy episode from my youth, or even as a parent and I can change the feeling of contentment to one of embarassment or even shame, over a memory where my emotions were too strong for what the child had done.
The very cool thing that I have learned is that I can change my thought to change my feeling.
I can remember what it was like to finish my last final exam in graduate school, get the grade of A, know that I had successfully completed, the first in my family to have a graduate degree, and re-experience that marvelous moment all over again. That night I took a good long time to stroll around the campus at Illinois State University where my journey began some 30 years previously just to take it all in, and to say goodbye. It is a bittersweet feeling, and that moment happened over 13 years ago.
So when I am feeling helpless or resentful or ashamed, I can remember that moment of transcendence for both me and my family, for no other reason than to have my positive feeling back.
That is what my memories will do for me.
Change the thought to change the feeling.
You can go back further if you want, to a moment of excellence as a child, if you want to change the thought to change the feeling.
I can remember any number of moments in Little League baseball for example, and re-experience the sense of efficacy I had as a little boy, especially when I got the double off my buddy Chuck Helling, who pitched for the Dodgers.
In fact, it is very healthy for me to have that kind of chemistry in my body, so why not practice cognitive skills that allow me to have a quiet sense of pride in my ability to problem solve, not to be grandiose, but to be healthy. What I mean is that changing the thought to change the negative feeling to a positive feeling changes stress hormones that I have now, in my body, because the memory is now, to DHEA, the anti-aging hormone.
There a lot of tools available today that can help me practice positive feelings heart beat by heart beat if I want to, and the one I have used for the last nine years, both personally and professionally is HeartMath, a biofeedback tool.
If I want to get really sophisticated with HeartMath, I can manage my feelings literally heart beat by heart beat from now until my heart stops.
It turns out the heart has a rather sophisticated nervous system all of its own, which can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have.
And I can train that brain with biofeedback so that I can access that cooperative and affiliative heart intelligence whenever I want, and my heart will then regulate its coherence for me.
Coherence refers to the time between heart beats and when I regulate that, my entire body, every cell impacted by the pneumatic and electromagnetic activity of my heart (all your cells) begins to dance to the same beat, like your body vibrates to the bass line in your favorite rock and roll anthem.
This is an easy skill to learn using HeartMath on my computer, and once I have learned it, I no longer need the computer, I can cue the physiology with a cue thought that I created in my practice.
For example, I think of my children's faces, and that image does not have to be very detailed, and I place them inside the volume of my chest, next to my heart, and I can feel the love there, and I can create that thought anytime I want a positive feeling, perhaps every five minutes for two heart beats.
Remember, changing the thought to change the feelings happens really quickly.
I can create either a positive or negative feeling in 1/18th second, which is why I think it is important to practice regular positive feeling.
As I do my HeartMath and my heart learns that it is to be coherent when I remember my cue thought, the process internally gets very fast. In fact my body does not like to get too far away from coherence after awhile, and gently reminds me with some discomfort.
And the feeling is a very positive feeling.
HeartMath also helps me open the higher perceptual centers in my brain, which is a good thing for the brain fitness capacities recently discovered called neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
Our brains actually grow new brain cells daily, but does not keep them unless they are given a novel learning challenge, like learning a new language, or a new instrument, or by practicing computerized brain fitness programs. That is neurogenesis. Too frequent doses of stress hormones or poisons like ethyl alcohol block neurogenesis. (Remember HeartMath is a great stress managment tool, with many healthy advantages).
Neuroplasticity is the word used to describe the efforts made by my neurons to connect with other neurons to cement new learning.
The more connections I have the better I am able to ward off alzheimers disease.
However, the co-authors of Brainfit for Life Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., report that those neuroplastic connections are evaluated during your sleep each night and decisions are made about which connection to keep and which to delete, so do not skimp on your sleep, which impacts your positive feelings too.
Practice Positive Feelings
The practice of positive feelings involves cognitive and physiological components.
I can manage my thoughts to feel positively, I can manage my physiology and thoughts to feel positively, and I can encourage brain fitness which enhances positive feelings.
And I can do it a lot.
Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.