Dear <<First Name>>,
This time of year is filled beginnings, endings and “betwixt & betweens”; graduations, weddings, family vacations and travel. Every year around this time I remember the countdown to the last day of school. Especially in elementary school, that euphoric feeling of packing up my desk, collecting all of the art projects that had been hung around the classroom all year, completing the workbooks and taking all our stuff home for summer vacation! The excitement and fear of knowing that in just a few months I would have a new teacher, new classroom and I would be one grade higher than I was right now. I don’t think I will ever let go of the “school’s out for the summer” thought pattern!
Why can’t I let go of this pattern of thinking? It is just like wanting a snack at 3 pm every day just like when I got home from school, it is ingrained in my brain, physically!
Here’s the easy version of how our brains fire and wire. Neurons light up every time we have a thought or feeling. The more often you have a specific thought, it becomes an established pathway. That neural pathway becomes strong and connected. Your brain actually has to work harder to have a new thought! Take about six minutes to watch this Ted Talk video by Dr. Joe Dispenza on “Neurons That Fire Together, Wire Together. It is fascinating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9K6GDBnByk
One of the benefits of travel is that it can be a high-intensity learning opportunity that forces us to create new neural pathways! Remember, it takes extra energy to do this and can result in unexpected fatigue. When people ask me how my daughter and I got along on our trip to Paris, I respond, “There was the luggage and then there was the baggage, emotional that is; we did a great job managing both!”
Here are some tips to help you rewire your brain and strengthen the new neural pathways you want to create.
Tip #1 Plan your day in advance including the feelings you want to experience!
Plan ahead for high emotion situations by setting reasonable intentions. If you know that certain family members, ex-family members, co-workers or friends trigger strong emotional responses, choose how you want to respond and rehearse your responses for several days or weeks before you spend time together. Begin developing the neural pathways you need to handle the stress of the situation in advance!
Intentionally, bless those you will be spending time with. Say nice things about them, honor their contributions in your life. Acknowledge any hardships or pain they may have experienced or are currently dealing with and commit to showing compassion while maintaining healthy boundaries.
Tip #2 Set up positive defaults.
Just as we have default patterns of thinking, we have default habits that may be triggered in unstructured situations. Here are some examples of positive defaults that will help you establish new patterns of behavior.
Bring healthy snacks with you; eat meals sooner than later so you don’t run on empty and default to emotional eating habits.
Set alarms so you remember to re-energize yourself throughout the day.
Stop buying mega sizes of foods you tend to overeat. Go to a really nice bakery and get one special item and savor it!
Do buy mega quantities of items you will always need (like toilet paper) so you don’t have to buy them as often. Also, these are great items to have delivered!
Keep a good pair of walking shoes in your car so you can take advantage of a beautiful day wherever you are.
Use an app like Mint to track spending on your phone.
Establish a morning and evening time to connect with your higher self.
Life might have been better when our phones were hung on the wall! Keep your phone in one place in your house. If you really have to check it every 5 minutes - you’ll be getting a lot more exercise.
Set the sleep timer on your TV to prevent binge watching late at night!
Try intermittent fasting; 12 hours between the evening meal and breakfast.
These ideas are just a starting point - create your own strategies and share them with me!
#3 List your natural “kickstarters” when you are in the depletion zone.
We naturally move into the zone of least resistance to whatever comes up later in the day. We have been disciplined all day with our thoughts, emotions and actions; we get tired and may not be our best selves as the day wears on. (Another great reason for the afternoon snack :)
Make a list of grounding activities; things you like to do to jump-start good behavior and uplifting feelings. My favorite grounding activity is laundry, even when I am on vacation! I like to take a quick walk or bike ride, play the piano, listen to music, enjoy the sunshine, put together an interesting meal or work in the garden. Some people like to organize, rearrange or clean!
When traveling with others, don’t be afraid to ask for some time alone. Stop at a coffee shop by yourself and do some people watching.
If it is a “re-entry blues” kind of day after a big trip or event, instead of making a hefty - “to-do-list” start a “Ta-Dah-List”. Write down every little thing you do and as the list grows, so will your motivation to tackle the bigger items on your plate. Give yourself permission to get back to your normal life with ease and time to savor all the wonderful details of your recent experiences.
Enjoy this fun-filled time between Memorial Day and Labor Day and know that every new experience changes your brain!
In the Spirit of Strengths,