Give yourself some space

I am a big fan of Rick Hanson, Ph.D.’s work. I have read his book,  Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence and I have taken his six day “Positive Neuroplasticity Training“.

I liked what Rick wrote in a recent blog post and wanted to share part of it with you now . . .

“For one or more of the items just below, imagine what it would feel like for you to have the freedom not to:

  • Press your point home
  • Struggle to get someone to change his or her mind . . .
  • Worry what other people think about you
  • React to what is swirling around you
  • Act on an impulse
  • Get into an argument
  • Be swept along by anger
  • Identify with a mood or point of view passing through awareness
  • Take something personally
  • Take responsibility for the experiences of other people . . .

. . . Faced with things that grab you in daily life, play with phrases like these in your mind: I’m free not to . . . I’m free not to __________ . . . I’m free . . . there is choice . . . Slow things down, pause, buy yourself some time, that space of freedom between stimulus and response. If others are getting intense, try gently talking to yourself, reminding yourself: You are free . . . you can choose your response . . . they are over there and you are over here . . . there is a freedom . . .

Notice what it’s like to feel freer. Enjoy it. Let this experience sink in.”

Giving yourself space is an amazing gift.  The sense of freedom and joy it brings is deep and rewarding. It is not always easy, but with time and practice, you can learn to take a moment, or a breath before getting caught up into something you may later regret.

Prime Your Brain

hansonBegin by replaying a moment of freedom or heartfelt joy in your mind. Remember how good it felt to you; envision the circumstances and then savor the feelings you have that arise with the memory. Let them sink in so you can truly feel how good freedom and joy feel. By allowing yourself to fully experience the moment, you are priming your brain to be able recreate the feelings at a moment’s notice.

Keep it up and you will eventually develop a form of positive instant recall, which will signal your brain to release calming hormones and chemicals that can help you quickly relax, while increasing your creativity and resilience.

Most of us are can respond with anger or sadness at the drop of a hat, but calmer more resilient, folks are equally – if not more so – efficient, at giving themselves space and at instantaneously bringing up happy and/or peaceful reactions.

Practice Brings Peace

The next time you let something or someone kindle a knee jerk reaction in you, pause and practice the phrases Rick mentions above – or use similar phrases that sound right to you – to redirect your attention and to remind yourself you always have the option to proceed down a more positive, peaceful, and relaxing path.

If you do give in to a negative response, don’t beat up on yourself, simply focus on something that makes you feel marvelous and tell yourself you will do better next time. A little self-compassion goes a long way, especially when blended with practice and patience.

I promise you, if you don’t give up, you will be giving yourself one of the best gifts you have ever received – peace of mind and more time to enjoy it.

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  1. I loved this! We can not control others…only our reactions. This is a technique I’m going to start practicing right away! I love the idea of giving myself time…I can always use more time. Freedom sounds very nice too. ; )


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