Practical relaxation and meditation

I mention relaxation, controlled breathing and body scans throughout my blog. A question was raised about how it all fitws together and here are my thoughts on that

…. however, possibly attending a class in your area would be the best introduction. For the present, meanwhile, consider these experiments.

ATTEND TO YOUR POSTURE

sit upright, look straight ahead,place your hands on knees or upper leg; keep your feet firmly on floor.

THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATHING

breathe only through your nose, with your mouth closed. Breathe in slowly to the count of around three; in through the nose and out through mouth. Evenly in and out.

USE THE BODY SCAN

slowly allow your attention to travel from the top of your head to the smallest pinkie on your toes. Notice what thoughts, feelings and sensations you observe as your focus moves down your body (it can be up, if you prefer)?

As it helps, note any Subjective Unit of Discomfort (SUD) level (0-10) associated with a particular thought, feeling or sensation.

FOCUS

your attention on a specific thought, feeling or sensation. You may need to make choices as a body scan will produce more than one result. Consider address each choice in an organised way. To help you focus, consider these further experiments:

  • use external objects – fix your eyes on an object above you and to one side.
  • use internal information – ‘just notice’ the disturbance(s) of thought, feeling or sensation from the body scan.

ATTENTION

use your internal dialogue to acknowledge any disturbance of thought, feeling or sensation.

use any other self-talk or diversionary strategies, as you wish. This may include

  • affirmation work. “Even though I am feeling [name the feeling you observe] I can deeply and completely accept myself”.
  • use of your breathing to attend to any unwanted tension in your muscles and body.
  • using the out-breath to let go of the unwanted tension, allowing your body to relax down, little by little, at the same time.

EYES

as your eyes become tired, having ‘played’ with images created around the fixed object, allow your eyes to close in your own time and meditate on any image created within your ‘inner eye’.

THIS PROCESS CAN CONTINUE FOR A FEW MINUTES OR FOR PARTS OF AN HOUR, AS YOU WISH, OR AS TIME ALLOWS.

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How to give yourself a nudge

Control breathing to keep calm. Is it really that simple?

My blog does emphasis the value of simple breathing exercises to calm ourselves. These exercises work for many people as they focus attention on our physiology – the workings of our bodies – and less on intricate psychological processes. Physiology seems to reach more of us than psychology!

However, thinking about breathing is a simple beginning. I’d ask you to think about controlled breathing – however you do it – as a gateway to many other important safe experiments. Controlled breathing is one step to take in affect regulation (to provide the official title for the process of soothing ourselves). On the subject of affect regulation there is a ton of research you can read, and, by way of a health warning, it is not very digestible. Affect regulation refers to the ability to maintain or increase positive feelings and well-being states and to minimise or regulate stress feelings and defensive states.

The idea of affect regulation is very old as it arises from the earlier, traditional psychological models. A living expert in this field is Allan Schore and he has two books of over 300 pages devoted to the topic. It is an important subject – infants and children have to learn how to control their responses to the world and carers are generally charged with helping that process. Some are more or less capable here. Therapy often exists to support and repair damage done in early years. Unfortunately, rather like the acquisition of language, it is less easy to put things right in later years.

To compound the problem, affect regulation rather depends on a deep understanding of human neuro-science. On this subject, Schore is well worth studying along with Louis Cozolino (The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy). For a more readable introduction to  the topic, have a look at Sebastian Seung’s Connectome.  A useful text that looks wider has Peter Fonagy as a lead writer (Affect Regulation, Mentalisation and the Development of the Self). Just a few glances at one or more of these texts will reinforce the idea that controlled breathing does, indeed, simply scratch the surface of ways to calm ourselves.

…. but you could be forgiven for the passing thought that therapy and therapists have a talent for complicating the picture and created a mystery around the change process. My own blog is less concerned with the under-pinning of affect regulation and more on practical ways in which you can enhance your own skills – on a daily basis.

For an interesting introduction to a brief affect regulation therapy, take a look at:

http://www.affectregulationtherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/About-brief-Affect-Regulation-Therapy.pdf

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Do you need some change?

I have been asked how the ‘safe experiment’ model fits into our understanding of how we change.

This is a good point as some of the theory around change explains why we have to persist with some experiments and learn from results that leave us discomforted – those small defeats, I mention.

Effective change appears to require some initial inspiration, growing motivation, an effective strategy that transforms into the ‘do-able thing’.

The results of one do-able thing after another make the change. If its the  preferred change – then you will do more of it. If it is an unexpected or undesirable change, then you will find something a little bit different to experiment with instead.

For a practical example of a change process, specifically relating to the research of James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente, take a look at:

stepupprogram.org/docs/handouts/STEPUP_Stages_of_Change.pdf

This material is based on important research contained in their text:

Trans-theoretical Stages of Change model (1983).

Those four pages, alone, provide considerable practical suggestions for any number of safe experiments. TRY IT!!

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Welcome to Find Your Nudge.

 

 

What are “negative cognitions”

Several folk have noticed this phrase appearing a lot in my blog. I have been asked what it means in English.

This is a good question as it is a central idea within Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement De-sensitisation and Re-processing (EMDR) – indeed, a lot of other therapies. Negative cognitions are phrases we have in our head with which we usually bad-mouth ourselves and/or other people. In therapy it is best to concentrate on ourselves. Therefore, negative cognitions generally begin with “I”.

Most of these beliefs about ourselves are concerned with basic things – control, responsibility, vulnerability, and getting it [life] wrong.

There are many of them, as you might imagine; indeed, as many as we can all generate together. Some examples include:

I am worthless  … inadequate …. shameful ….. not loveable …… not good enough,

I deserve to die. …..  to be miserable ….

I don’t belong …..

Typical negative thoughts around RESPONSIBILITY include:

I should have known better.

and around VULNERABILITY include:

I cannot trust myself  … my judgement ….. trust anyone

and around CONTROL/CHOICE

I am not in control  ….I am powerless …. I am weak …… I am a failure.

Compare that with some positive cognitions (or affirmations, as they can be known).

I deserve love.

I am a loving person.

I am worthy.; I am worthwhile.

I deserve good things.

I can trust myself ….. I am safe now …… I can safely show my emotions ….. I am now in control …..I can get what I want.

Any of these phrases sound interesting?

Try saying one inside your head. What does it feel like?

Do not be surprised if you feel uncomfortable; that can be expected.

Any thoughts on why that might be so? If it is so, what experiment comes to mind to help you on your way?

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