As I was sitting in my office today, finishing up my final assignment for my MFT course, I realized I haven’t sent a newsletter since the coronavirus outbreak, and I began wondering how everyone is doing with life as we know it right now. To me, it kind of feels like someone has pressed the pause button on life, and it seems uncertain when things will be “back to normal.”
When life seems uncertain, the human mind has a tendency to wander. If we are not careful, we end up wondering and worrying about things that we have no control over. Too much time in the unknown can lead to fear and anxiety, and neither one of those feels very good.
We have to train our brains to stay focused on things we can control–like how we feel.
One of my favorite “mind hacks” that I have learned over the years help keep my mind at home is “Decide how I want to feel and look for reasons to feel that way.”
I would like to share with you how this mind hack came to be.
My husband and I went to Grand Cayman for our anniversary. I was sitting on the beach while he played in the water. Instead of enjoying the warm sun, I was feeling super uncomfortable about being in my swimsuit in public. I wanted to enjoy this time with my husband, but I was too concerned about how people would view me, about how silly or stupid I would look playing in the water next to Dave, who is a natural born fish and just good at everything. Needless to say, I was lacking confidence in myself, and I had no idea how to change that.
I had a little panic attack.
I reached out to my mentor/coach and asked, “I need you to tell me how it feels to be confident. If I only knew what if feels like, I can make myself feel it!”
I didn’t like his answer–”I can’t give you confidence.” But then he said, “Try this. Look up and tell me what you see.”
“I see the sun. It’s so beautiful the way it shines down on the water.”
“OK. What does the sun feel like.”
“It feels amazing on my skin. SO warm! It’s one of my favorite feelings!”
“Now, how do you feel?”
“I feel good! I don’t feel anxious anymore.”
Then he said “Happiness is now. Confidence is now. Get up and go play in the water with your husband.”
So I did–and as long as I stayed present, I had a good time, and my mind was very aware of the difference.
Later that day, the words from Hebrews 11:1 came to my mind–only not quite accurately. According to my memory, the scripture said, “ faith is the essence of things hoped for and not seen.” But something prompted me to look it up. The scripture actually says “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” My mind opened up to a whole new perspective!! Essence is abstract, but substance is something tangible that I can grab onto. Faith brings my hopes into tangible substance! So, instead of wondering what confidence is supposed to feel like or what happiness is supposed to feel like, I can imagine what I hope it will feel like and make it happen!!
Suddenly my coach’s words “Happiness is now” made so much sense! I had experienced it on that beach. To me, Happiness feels like sunshine, and as long as I focused on the sunshine, I felt happy. I hoped I could feel confident enough to play in the ocean with Dave. So to me, the act of playing is what I hoped confidence would feel like, AND when I was playing, I felt bursts of confidence.
From that day on, I learned I could figure out HOW I want to feel in any given moment and then grab a hold of something that gives me the feeling I am looking for. I just have to choose the way I want to feel and allow myself to feel that way by finding and focusing on the feeling. To help me remember, I created this mantra and I repeat it to myself often:
“Decide how you want to feel, and look for reasons to feel that way– and if you can’t find them, make them!!“
I have since become really good at choosing the way I want to feel and allowing myself to feel that way and getting the results that I want in my life–at least much more often than before.
Everything we want is attached to a feeling.
Whether it’s more confidence, a new home, more friends, ice cream…there is a feeling behind everything that we want to have, do, and be. Being aware of the feeling behind the things that you HOPE FOR can be a powerful tool to help you turn those things to substance.
- Notice how you are feeling right now.
- Label the feeling. Give it a name.
- If you are feeling differently than the way you want to feel: a. Ask yourself why? b. What thoughts and behaviors are creating that feeling?
- Decide how you want to feel!
- Look around you for reasons to feel that way. a. Notice the world around you! b. Use your 5 Senses to help you: feel the sun on your skin, listen to the birds sing, uplifting music, an empowering podcast, look at something beautiful c. Express detailed gratitude for what you see. “I am grateful for _____ because _____.” d. Move your body: get your heart-rate up, boost the feel-good chemicals in your brain, reinforce the desired feeling with your behavior
- If you can’t seem to find a reason to feel the way you want to feel, you can create a reason! a. Remember a time in the past when you felt that feeling and journal about it. b. Think of someone you know who has or seems to have the “substance” you hope for, and model them. ACT as if..