Lighten Up — A Visualization to Reduce Tension

I often like to think about why I feel the way I do. When I start the day in a blah mood, how can I improve it? When I feel tired, what can I do to feel better, and have more energy? Many times, I need to change what I am thinking, but sometimes, just getting a change of scenery or distracting myself from what I was doing, is enough to make me feel better.

Our moods are definitely affected by what we do with our bodies. Sitting in one position, such as sitting at a computer or behind the wheel driving for hours, can make us stagnant. Moving around helps us think and keeps our brains active. Even a short walk, swinging my arms, makes me feel so much more alive.

Isn’t it interesting how when you are tense, it helps to stretch — which is actually putting tension on your muscles. When you feel fit, you also feel like being more active. When you smile, you feel better, and it works in reverse also: if you want to feel better, you can fake a smile. I learned that last one from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, and it really does work.

I’ve noticed that in yoga, sometimes the instructor reminds me to relax my face muscles or soften my facial expression, so I’ve been playing around with that idea. I am working on becoming more aware of neck and face tension, and reminding myself to ease up. There’s a fun little visualization that I’ve been using that I’d like to share with you.

Visualization: Taking off the Tuque

To start off, I should explain for those of you not from Canada what a tuque is (pronounced “too-ke”). It’s a knitted hat, and can range from loose to tight, big to small, thick to thin. I believe it is a French Canadian word, which explains why people from other countries don’t usually know it. :)t

My first teddy bear, posing here with a knitted toque

My first teddy bear, posing here with a knitted toque

Now, imagine that you are wearing four or five tuques (or any type of close-fitting hat), one on top of the other. There are so many layers, they are squeezing your head all around. Gradually, imagine that you are taking them off, one by one, until you feel the tension release. Your head is no longer being squeezed, and you can feel the light of the sun and the gentle, cool breeze on your head.

Whenever you feel a bit tense, stop and imagine that you are taking the hats off — if you feel really pressured, maybe the hat is a tight swimmer’s cap! As you remove the hats, you feel lighter, your face feels brighter, your eyes feel softer and your scalp more relaxed. The top of your head feels warm and alive… and in addition to feeling more relaxed, you may also find you are better able to connect to your intuition. The seventh chakra is on the very top of your head, so this visualization is bound to help release any pent-up energy.

Hope this helps you relieve tension and feel more at-ease!

How Do Thoughts Feel?

A little while ago, I wrote a post about thinking, and how certain thoughts make me feel good and I can improve my mood by changing my thoughts. This is a grand form of self-manipulation, and I’ve been doing it a while so I’m getting pretty good at it.

But manipulating my feelings is not always a good thing to do. Sometimes, my feelings are actually my intuition trying to get through to me, to tell me that something is not right… that I need to change what I am doing… or that I’m making a bad decision. So, I have been learning to listen to my intuition better (read Part 1 here).

The other day, I had yet another realization when it comes to thoughts and feelings. I had been meditating for a while, and my mind suddenly wandered away from the happy, healthy, harmonious thoughts I had been thinking. I mean, I was feeling really good, humming along at a very high vibration, and feeling very “floaty.” And then, out of the blue, I thought “I really need to log in to the online banking and see how much money is in the account.” Woah. I distinctly felt my body react to that thought. It was a slight churny feeling in my gut. So, I made a note of it, re-centered myself, and continued meditating. A little while later, my mind wandered again, and all I thought was “I should check what time it is.” Again, I had a little “worm wiggle” in my gut — very slight, and not exactly in the same place or same way as before, but definitely in response to the thought.

I am sure you have had the experience where you talk about food with someone, your gut “hears you,” and pretty soon it’s churning away and you’re feeling very hungry. It’s happened to me many times, and the strongest when I am talking about my favourite foods! It’s like my gut is saying “give me some of that! That sounds awesome!”

Interesting, isn’t it? When I was meditating, I felt exactly what those thoughts did to me. Both were related to a lack of something — time or money — and had deep, hidden roots in worry. And here I thought I never worried! Well, I don’t worry much, but even just a little bit of worry affected me physically, so I can’t imagine what a full-blown worry-fest would do. Would it affect my digestion? Almost certainly. Would my thinking be clouded? Most likely.

My beliefs about money and time seem to be connected to my gut, and I don’t know if this is universal, or if you would find that a different part of your body responds to similar thoughts. I think it is probably different for everyone, because all our beliefs are individual. No matter what, recent research is showing more and more that we have huge numbers of neurons (brain cells) in our gut. Scientists have proven that our gut chemistry affects our moods, and we all know that thoughts affect our moods, and now I’ve put the other side on our triangle — our thoughts affect our gut. So if one of the three — gut, moods, thoughts — isn’t healthy, looking at the other two can help to fix it. For many of us, it’s the gut that shows up as unhealthy, so it’s good to know that by changing our thoughts and moods, we can have a healthy gut again.

We are energy beings, so we need to remember to take care of ourselves on all levels. Often when we are sick, it’s because our intuition has been trying to get our attention, to tell us something VERY important, and we just aren’t listening. When we get sick, we are forced to stop and take notice, reevaluate our lives and make new decisions.

If you would like to try this experiment on yourself, let me know your results! I’m sure your mind will wander naturally, so don’t feel like you have to think about money or time. Just let me know your experiences (you can leave a comment or contact me directly if you prefer). 🙂

Getting Out of a Funk!

I was in a funk the other day, and not the good kind of groovy, breakin’-a-sweat-on-the-dance-floor kind of funk. It was more like the funk you find on leftovers that you forgot about in the back of the fridge. That kind of funk, emotionally.

I was frustrated, ticked off. I couldn’t believe that a phone company could have such bad customer service. I was right annoyed. And from that one frustrating event, I ended up getting into the funk I mentioned — an emotional confusion, frustration and general ugliness. It wasn’t full-blown anger but it wasn’t pretty. I was definitely not myself.

It wasn’t easy, but I managed to get out of that funky bad mood. Let me give you a few strategies to try that might help you when you feel crappy and don’t like it.

1. Feel the feeling. Don’t try to avoid the feeling, or pretend you don’t feel cruddy. Actually stop and “check in” with your body to see how that frustration or anger is making you feel. Stomach unsettled? Tension? Take a quick poll, and then breathe.

2. Ask yourself “how would I rather feel?” Would you rather feel content, happy, or even just blah? Usually when I feel cruddy, even just boredom feels like a relief. This can be a tough step, because you start to sense the big gap between how you feel now and how you want to feel. Just the same, it’s a good trick, because you can start to make a move to a better feeling.

3. What thoughts have you been thinking? If you have been thinking about how everything is unfair and nothing is working out right, then no wonder you’re funky. Try to identify what you have been thinking about lately. Act like a scientist doing research — try to be detached from the thoughts themselves.

4. Go general. Now, choose to think something different and start a little “good-feeling” rant in your head. It is always best to go as general as possible. It won’t work to try and criticize or analyze why that company had such bad customer service, for example. Instead, think that “this kind of treatment was unusual, because normally, people treat me well… generally, things go really smoothly for me… the sun in shining and things are looking up… whatever things in my life that aren’t perfect aren’t really a big deal… I am healthy and that is a huge blessing…” Any thoughts along general, positive lines are best.

If this is too hard or feels too fake, try this:

5. Distract yourself. It is absolutely perfectly okay to distract yourself from whatever is cheesing you off. Change what you are doing — go do something you enjoy. Play a game, call a friend (but don’t bitch at him/her), or listen to your favourite music. Do something with your hands. Go for a walk or move your body (this is great if you are caged in an office). If you are at work and can’t really leave, you can still change what you are doing, go for a coffee or other excuse to move your body a little. The point is to distract yourself from whatever was bothering you with something you enjoy. Like I often say, we are like corks; it takes considerable effort to keep us down. A little distraction is usually enough to let our spirit rise.

Hopefully, you will find these tips helpful to lift your mood when you need it!