There are essential acts and states of consciousness which we can identify and use to create a foundation to help us ground, grow, connect and thrive in both good times and times of stress (like during COVID-19).
I’ve boiled down the essential structure of safety and aliveness into the following seven areas.
Move. Connect with your body.
- What: Exercise, do yoga, stretch, walk, hike, garden, dance.
- Why: Movement connects you to your body, flushes out stress-hormones, and replenishes you with feel-good hormones.
Learn. Connect with your mind.
- What: Read, listen to inspirational or humorous podcasts, listen to a PBS history documentary, listen to interesting audio books, ask someone to teach you how to do something, exchange recipes with friends and try them out, find out how to make something on YouTube (I learned I could make a foamy latte at home by pumping heated milk up and down inside my French Press!)
- Why: Learning engages and balances the brain. You can’t be scared and curious at the same time, they are two different brain functions and two different parts of the brain. Learning helps you feel alive and helps you feel safer.
Mindfulness. Connect your mind with your heart.
- What: Listen to meditation apps like Calm, use your sitting practice, listen to calming music, especially music with no language, or a language other than your own and let the music take you somewhere.
- Why: Practicing mindfulness creates and grows new neural circuits that help you return to, and live from, your Wise Self. You learn and embody resiliency, wider perspectives, compassion including self-compassion, and curiosity.
Gratefulness. Connect with your heart.
- What: Sit, stretch and yawn, bring to mind something of beauty, kindness, appreciation, “take the elevator down” from your head to your heart, feel the gratefulness as a feeling, even putting your hand on your heart to really help you move from your thoughts to present sensations.
- Why: There are neurons in your heart as well as your brain. A lot of them! A felt, embodied sense of gratefulness helps us move from busy left brain, to more embodied, more compassionate right brain, balances all brain functions, flushes out stress hormones, turns on feel good-hormones, and calms and grounds us.
Play. Connect with your creativity.
- What: Play a board game, learn how to sing a song, bake something you’ve never baked before, play a word game with your child, paint, draw, sketch, make a collage from magazine pictures and scraps, journal, do a puzzle, make a playlist and listen to music, make a silly video for Facebook!
- Why: You can’t be afraid and playful at the same time. If you allow yourself to play, you bring your brain back into balance. Allowing yourself to be creative actually helps you thrive and grow!
Connect/Love. Connect yourself with your self, family, pets, friends, and the planet.
- What: Talk with friends and loved ones, pet the cat, walk the dog, snuggle, make a phone call, talk with someone far away on Skype, send a heartfelt or humorous email.
- Why: Love is the ultimate brain-balancer. A loving act given, received, or witnessed, helps us to let go of stress and bring in goodness, brings us out of busy thoughts into a more holistic way of being, and allows us to have compassion and gratitude for self and others.
Nature. Connect with the planet.
- What: Watch the clouds pass by, listen to the wind in the trees, hear the birds, bring in flowers from your garden.
- Why: Connecting with nature is connecting with a force that is larger than oneself, and helps stimulate wonder, awe, appreciation, and fun. It helps us feel both our uniqueness and how our uniqueness is one small and beauteous expression of the larger, mysterious expression that is life itself. Awe balances the brain and inspires hope, peace and life force.
Play with the bolded words to come up with your own words and activities to make your unique foundation.
For example, this particular blog arose out of the following exercise. I was feeling overwhelmed with many projects, and I wanted to end each day feeling a sense of completion and refreshment. I decided to make a foundation by boiling down into the shortest words possible those acts and attitudes essential for a day to be fully satisfying for me. I came up with: Move—Pray—Create—Sing—Love and put them up on a little strip of paper on my fridge. Even if I don’t “get it all done” I can rest in the structure. It’s not about doing it all, it’s about feeling the structure. It simplifies things, because I can invite myself into what I know is helpful.
For me that means Moving my body with stretching and yoga, and walks outside in Nature to expand my consciousness. Engaging my Mindfulness and Gratefulness practices. Learning and Playing through practicing singing, writing songs, and working on my novel (I’m a singer-songwriter and writer). Opening my heart to my partner, myself and others in acts of giving and receiving Love.