Whatever people say there is still stigma around mental health. For many people the hardest thing is admitting that they have a problem and they end up feeling isolated, bad about themselves leading to low self-esteem and often hopeless.
For many the first step is telling people how they feel. But for many, even articulating how they feel is a challenge.
When people say “I just want to feel better” what are they actually saying?
My belief is what they actually mean is something along the lines of….”I want to feel happy but I don’t want to feel sad. I want to feel good about myself but not have all those feelings of self-doubt. I want to feel all the positive emotions but if you could just switch off anything negative that would be just fine……”
I could be exaggerating or making it too simplistic but there is an element of truth in what I’ve just said.
So if you say “I want to feel better” what could that mean?
How about instead of wanting to feel better, wanting to feel more. Be more aware of what we actually feel rather than trying to damp down all the unpleasant feelings and focus on the nicer ones. Because life does throw tough experiences at us and if someone dies feeling sad or angry is a healthy response.
The other benefit of feeling more is that you know what’s really going on in your body-mind. And if you know, you have more power and more choices
So how do you get better at feeling?
So much as we like to think our mind and body are separate, your body is the vessel in which your brain lives and everything that happens in your body sends messages to your brain. Your gut and spine are also full of the receptors for the molecules of emotion so it’s a good idea to know what’s going on in your body.
Stop. Go quiet. And just observe what is happening in your body in this moment. You may become aware of your breath. Or notice that your low back or shoulders feel a bit stiff. You may feel uncomfortable. You may find this very difficult and dismiss it as “a waste of time”.
So lets make things a bit easier. Place your hands palm over palm on your upper chest very gently and notice how you feel if you put your focus there (let’s call this position 1). Then after a few moments move your hands down to the middle of your torso, just over your stomach (position 2) where the ribs come together and do the same thing. Repeat it with your hands over your belly button (position 3).
Some of you may feel different things in different places. You may feel more peaceful in position 1 than position 3 or you may associate anger or stress with one of these places.
Now put your hands back on position 1 and focus your breath into that area so that it moves. Is this easy or difficult. Can you localize your breath? Repeat for positions 2 and 3.
Then pick the area that felt the best. The one that allowed you to relax and feel good. Put your hands there again and focus on that area for a few moments. Then ask – what’s different now?
Why those areas?
The three positions we used have lots of nerve fibres going to them so are super sensitive. They affect the vagus nerve which is part of the nervous system that allows your body to relax and come out of fight-flight or the stress response.
This simple exercise repeated daily (more if you want) is the first step to knowing how your body feels and by focussing on the best bit you can increase your feelings of ease or relaxation.
This exercise was based on the first stage of healing by Donald Epstein. We teach all 12 exercises in the office in our Neuro-Activation classes or in private sessions.
What can I expect if I do this?
Many people report feeling energized, more in control, relief, ease from just doing this simple exercise. Becoming aware of the embodiment of what is going on in your mind can be the first step to speaking up or asking for help.
Have fun exploring your body and developing your ability to know what’s going on inside in response to outside.