The following has been adopted from research performed by life coach Olivia Fox Cabane. These practices are spiritual in the sense that they focus on lifting our inner spirit through mindful kindness with others. Still, these techniques are grounded in our biology and are supported by psychological research.
Consumer marketing targets our insecurities in hopes that we make decisions with our primordial brains instead of through rational decision making. We have the strength inside to save ourselves from rash decisions by reaffirming our worth as people without a need to find possessions to fill the voids in our lives.
While warmth visualization can temporarily lift your spirits, physical actions will have greater impact. Write meaningful thank you notes to express your true appreciation and strengthen bonds. Spread happiness for yourself and those around you by gifting memorable experiences of your time or donations. When that is not possible, express your prosocial energy through meditative thought or jot down your thoughts in a journal.
“There is good evidence that imagining oneself performing an activity activates parts of the brain that are used in actually performing the activity”
Whenever we use our brain, we fire neuronal connections, and the more these connections get used, the stronger they become. You can build an then strengthen whichever mental tendencies you focus on.
The right visualization can help you increase your internal feeling of confidence as well as your ability to project it. Just by using the right mental images, your subconscious mind will send a remarkable chain reaction of confidence signals cascading through your body. You can display nearly any body language just by picking the right visualization.
Close your eyes and relax. Employ your senses as you focus on a moment in your life when you felt triumphant.
You can also add real sensory input to your visualizations. For instance:
- Play music while you verbalize or subvocalize. Choose a song that makes you feel energized and confident.
- Creating certain movements or postures can bring up specific emotions in your mind.
- Add scents by experimenting with different aromatherapy oils
Gratitude and Appreciation
We are biologically wired for hedonic adaptation: the tendency to take our blessings for granted. Gratitude is a great antidote for negative feelings because it comes from thinking of things you already have. Studies have shown that gratitude helps you live longer, healthier, and even happier.
Gratitude is both a great first step toward warmth and a solid technique to get back into a good mental state even during a difficult situation. Simply considering the possibility of gratitude or looking for small things to appreciate will send a positive change sweeping through your body language.
For quick gratitude access, find things you can approve of right now. Scan your body and your environment for little, tangible things you could be grateful for.
Goodwill and Compassion
Goodwill is the simple state of wishing others well. Goodwill improves how you feel as it floods your system with oxytocin and serotonin, both wonderful feel-good chemicals.
One simple way to start is to try and find three things you like about the person you want of feel goodwill toward. Find three things to appreciate or approve of, no matter how small (i.e. “their shoes are shined”)
Another way to feel goodwill is to imagine the person you’re speaking to, and all those around you, as having invisible angel wings. Many clients said this was an extraordinarily effective visualization.
In cases where goodwill is not enough, try going a step beyond to empathy and compassion:
- Goodwill means that you wish someone well without necessarily knowing how they feel.
- Empathy means that you understand what they feel.
- Compassion is empathy plus goodwill: you understand how they feel and you wish them well
Follow the three steps below to practice compassion for someone:
- Imagine their past. What was it like growing up in their family and experiencing their childhood?
- Imagine their present. Put yourself in their place. See through their eyes. Imaging what they might be feeling right now.
- Imagine delivering their eulogy. Ask yourself, what if this were their last day alive?
“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
Warmth can also be directed inward, toward ourselves. This self-directed warmth is called self-compassion, and though it can sound (and feel) uncomfortable, it can be a life-changing practice.
Self-confidence is our belief in our ability to do or learn to do something.
Self-esteem is how much we approve of our value ourselves.
Self-compassion is how much warmth we have for ourselves, especially when we’re going through a difficult experience.
Individuals who score high on self-compassion scales demonstrate great emotional resilience to daily difficulties and fewer negative reactions to difficult situations.
Higher self-compassion predicts a greater sense of personal responsibility for the outcome of events: it helps perfect levels of accountability.
Self-compassion is feeling that what happened to you is unfortunate, whereas self-pity is feeling that what happened to you is unfair.
Self-compassion is what helps us forgive ourselves when we’ve fallen short; it’s what prevents internal criticism from taking over and playing across our face, ruining our charisma potential.
Self-compassion delivers an impressive array of benefits: decreased anxiety, depression and self-criticism; improved relationships and greater feelings of social connectedness and satisfaction with life, increased ability to handle negative events; and even improved immune system functioning. Researchers who started experimenting with these kinds of visualization with highly self-critical people reported “significant reductions in depression, anxiety, self-criticism, shame and inferiority” while noting a “significant increase in feelings of warmth and reassurance for the self.”
Self-compassion is a 3-step process:
- Realize that you’re experiencing difficulties.
- Response with kindness and understanding toward yourself when you are suffering or feel inadequate, rather than being harshly self-critical.
- Realize that whatever you’re going through is commonly experienced by all human beings, and remembering that everyone goes through difficult times.
Putting It into Practice: Self-Compassion
Keep a self-compassion list. Jot down five ways that you already care for yourself when you’re having a hard time. Star those that are particularly effective.
Metta is a Buddhist compassion and self-compassion practice that roughly translates to “loving kindness.” Metta causes people to emit deeper brain waves, bounce back from stress scenarios much faster, and enhances the “happy region” of the brain.
Putting It into Practice: Metta
The following visualization below will guide you through Metta step by step:
- Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take two or three deep breaths, letting them wash all your worries away.
- Think of any occasion in your life when you performed a good deed, however great or small.
- Thing of someone or something—present, past, mythical or actual—that you can imagine having warm affection for you. Such a relative, friend, pet, stuffed animal or anything else that brings you joy.
- Picture this being in your mind, and see their warmth, kindness, and compassion. Imagine their affection and let it envelop you.
- Feel them give you complete forgiveness for everything your inner critic says isn’t good enough about your or your life.
- Feel them giving you complete acceptance as you are right now, with all your imperfections, at this stage of your progression.
What do you think?