This week I am following up my previous posts on “Feeling the Feels” and “Cultivating Awareness”. By the end of this post you will have a four step process for releasing automatic self-soothing behaviors.
Let’s say you have cultivated an awareness of automatic responses to uncomfortable emotions. You want to change these behaviors but you don’t know where to start.
You may in fact discover your self-soothing behaviors are incredibly powerful. This is because you have been using them automatically for so long.
You have built neural pathways in your brain that anticipate the momentary rewards of food, shopping, gambling, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. when certain stimuli or feelings arise.
But your brain is built for evolving, and you can build new neural pathways.
When I first decided that I was ready to release my self-soothing sugar addiction I made a list of activities that were healthier alternatives to working through anxiety and self-criticism.
I will share my ideas, as you contemplate what might work for you.
Quiet time in nature. A long walk in the woods could almost always bring me out of my anxious monkey-mind as I appreciated the grandeur and serenity of the natural world.
Listening to an entertaining or inspiring podcast. When I was feeling anxious I didn’t necessarily want spiritual, self-help podcasts; instead I would tune into episodes of “Pop Culture Happy Hour”, “How I Built This”, or “Design Matters”. Listening to the entertaining or inspiring stories of others created distance from my anxious mind and allowed me to experience the world beyond.
Yoga. Tuning into my body and breath with a juicy, luxurious flow would eventually dissolve the physical presence of anxiety.
Journaling. In particular, if I was feeling anxious or fearful about an upcoming situation, I would make a list of all the ways in which I had experienced success in the past. Then I would write about all the ways in which my upcoming event could go brilliantly. Although this activity pulled me out of the present, it allowed me to quell worry about the future.
Now it’s your turn!
What would be on your list of healthier activities for working through uncomfortable emotions?
Cuddling with your pet?
Taking a bath?
Playing a board game with your children?
Going on a bike ride?
Crocheting a scarf?
Reading a great book?
Activities like this allow you to reroute the neural pathways that once depended on self-soothing behaviors.
Eventually, the goal is to understand in your core that it is OKAY to feel the feels.
When you are ready for this step, you can welcome the emotions like a visitor, get curious, and sit with the feeling, with the full knowledge that “this too shall pass”.
In my experience, when the feeling is acknowledged and accepted, it passes through with a quickness.
Let’s review the process.
Cultivate an awareness of the present moment, identifying conditioned self-soothing responses to negatively charged emotions.
Pause and make a choice.
Try alternate activities to work through the emotions.
Welcome the emotions, get curious, and “be” with them.
Practice these four steps and transform you life!
You have the power to release the struggle, to live the vibrant healthy life that is your birthright.
Isn’t that exciting?