The best stress solutions are free. The best stress solutions involve breathing deeply and rhythmically, and attending to your thoughts and perceptions.
The one problem that none of the mindfulness gurus teach us is that our thoughts change much faster than we breath, so I may enter into a deep breath, and before I have completed my inhalation, I am creating a nice adrenaline and cortisol physiology because I have suddenly remembered a bill that is not yet paid. I read somewhere that we have 60,000 thoughts per day, which seems like a small number actually, but a large number of times to do stress solutions.
It would take some kind of counseling to help me make all of my 60,000 daily thoughts gratitude thoughts.
So it does take some practice to keep a mindfulness practice going on in the background of my consciousness, to be brought to the foreground if need be, so I can choose what thought I want to have, and for how long.
I remember early AA experiences where the veterans would say "Gratitude is the Attitude" and I always sort of assumed that once I set an attitude, it would stay.
That is not true. I move my attention around rather quickly as all humans do, because of the human orienting response, and if I am not careful, my thoughts will follow along, so my attitude of gratitude can become an attitude of resentment in perhaps 1/18th second, according to Mihalyi Csikszenmihalyi, who wrote the best seller, FLOW.
That 1/18th second is twice as fast as I can blink my eyes, so a stress solution must happen fast, because stress happens very fast.
So part of the stress solution is to get used to the idea that your attention is going to shift and your stress solution, perhaps your attention to your breathing, will not be continuous.
But it does need to be regular, and with practice you can get yourself used to the idea of attending to your internal physiology and returning to your stress solution fast.
Another early AA teaching that had value for me was the 11th step, which spoke to daily prayer and meditation.
Over the years, as I practiced the Serenity Prayer many more times per day than a formal 11th step, it occurred to me that prayer and meditation could be done in brief bursts, and the stress response, which John Gottman describes so beautifully in his marriage workshop The Art and Science of Love as diffuse physiological arousal could be managed, made coherent like a coherent heart beat, and stress solutions can be done in very brief bursts also.
If you are familiar with EEG neurofeedback, you know that training attentional styles using neurofeedback means working in HZ. or cycles per second. Yes, your brain can learn to attend to itself in cycles per second.
That is good news for you if you are epileptic, or alcoholic, which are two issues neurofeedback has had an excellent impact in.
And it turns out that there is a brain in our hearts too, and that if we train those affiliative and cooperative neurons in our hearts, they will keep your heart beating coherently which means that your entire body, every cell will hum along coherently, which keeps my body filled with DHEA, the anti aging hormone rather than adrenaline and cortisol.
So it sounds like you can do stress solutions heart beat by heart beat.
By the way, no one knew that our hearts had a brain of their own until a decade or so ago.
That knowledge has come from the new field of neurocardiology, which is uncovering the impact our hearts have on our emotions, our thinking, and our feelings, including stress, anxiety, and fear.
The scientists have created a heart rate variability biofeedback tool which with some practice trains the brain in my heart to respond very quickly to a stress solution of a grateful thought, and a deeper, cyclical breathing pattern.
Giving the heart direct feedback speeds up the arduous practice of mindfulness and stress solutions.
In fact, learning the Heartmath tool took me six 1/2 hour practices, and since I have been using it in my practice, (2001), I have only had one person take more than five hours to learn it.
So a stress solution can be done heart beat by heart beat which takes into consideration the way we humans pay attention.
And it turns out that doing Heartmath actually opens the higher perceptual centers in my brain, so I can generate more and better solutions to the problems I need to solve.
Or maybe I just want to manage my sleep, golf game, or do better on my SAT or ACT college prep exams? Heartmath is the tool for stress solutions.
It combines all of the stress management tools, coupled with a permanent learning in your heart's brain. Want to try it?
Here is a link to the Heartmath store and a video link.
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.
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