What was is like for you doing the exercise in Part 1 of "Take From?" What experiences did you recall, and what difference in your mood did you feel as you recalled the memories?
In that exercise I talked about things you can do to begin to rewire your brain for feeling happier by activating and strengthening pathways in your brain associated with feeling happy. Well, Week 3 builds on what I talked about in Week 2. You can also increase your level of happiness by recalling times in your life when you experienced positive emotions, such as times when you felt peaceful, joyful, confident, or compassionate.
Here is another brain exercise to try: Take a sheet of paper and divide it into 4 columns. Write across the top of it, "Peaceful Memories," "Joyful Memories," "Confident Memories," and "Compassionate Memories."
Before you do the exercise, though, pay attention to what you are feeling right now. On a scale of 0 - 10, with 10 being, "I feel great, and feel no stress, anxiety, sadness, or anger," and 10 being, "I feel the worst of those emotions I can recall experiencing," where are you on that scale right now? BTW, that 0 - 10 scale is called the SUDS scale, which stands for Subjective Units of Distress. Write your SUDS score at the top of your paper.
Now search through your mind and recall a time in your life when you felt peaceful. Perhaps it's of being very relaxed and calm lying on a beach, or being at a cabin on a lake, or listening to an amazing concert, or cuddling a baby, or any other memory that generated feelings of peacefulness, serenity, or tranquility. Recall the memory in as much detail as you can regarding sights, sounds, smells, tastes, body sensations, and whatever emotions you associate with the memory. Write down what you recall. If your mind gives you more than one memory, even better.
Do the same thing for any memory of a time in your life when you felt joyful.
Do the same for a memory of a time when you felt confident. If you're having a hard time recalling a time like that, perhaps you have a memory of something you found challenging that you didn't initially feel confident about doing, but you persevered and were able to feel good about it at the end. Maybe it's a memory of a time when you achieved something or reached a goal that was important to you.
Last, do the same thing for any memory of a time when you felt compassion for someone, or for a group of people, or even for an animal. This kind of memory is particularly important, and I'll talk more about it in a later blog, but for now, just know that if you have ever felt compassion for anyone or anything, then you already have developed pathways in your brain associated with compassion, And why is that so important? Because many people engage in a lot of self-criticism, which undermines their happiness. But if the neural pathways are already developed around compassion, that means you can learn to use them to give yourself compassion. People who are self-compassionate are usually happier and more resilient.
So, where are you now on a scale of 0 - 10, with 0 being, "I feel great and feel no stress, anxiety, sadness, or anger," and 10 being, "I feel the worst of those emotions I can recall experiencing?" Write down your SUDS score again.
How does that compare to your first SUDS score? What did you notice about how this exercise impacted your feelings? Many people report feeling greater calmness and happiness after doing this exercise, and my hope is that as you do it this week, you will also notice that happening for you.
(Photo credit - LSO Photo)