MMM for Mood Management
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During this course focus your attention on using mind management mastery to regulate your emotions.
- Be selfish.
- Observe your mind.
- Be patient with yourself.
- Remove distractions
- Identify micro-panics.
- Identify triggers.
- Self soothe
- Regulate your breathing.
- Use calming statements.
- Practice the HALTS – don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely, tired or serious.
- Practice constructive prospecting.
- Practice constructive relaxation.
This week is about you. As much as is reasonable, focus your attention on yourself. Try to watch how you are feeling, what you are thinking, how you are reacting, what you are doing. Whatever happens during the week, as you go about your activities, draw your attention into yourself, increasing your awareness of how you are responding to the various triggers.
Observe your mind.
Observing your mind is about watching where your mind has gone to and deciding whether you want it to be where it is. Inevitably, by observing your mind you separate yourself from the process of living your life and allow yourself an ability to make objective decisions, interrupting the process of living your life in automatum.
We have a remarkable ability to observe ourselves. This is called cultivating the witness in Buddhism, the Hindu’s call it the third eye. It is also sometimes referred to as the mind’s eye or a ‘higher self’. In mind management mastery, it is referred to as the transcendent “I”. It is the part of you that can see you. Buddha is said to have said, “Who is the I who can see me?”
The critical component of your transcendent self is that from this vantage point you can keep perspective. Perspective is magic. Step out of the nitty gritty and observe yourself from your wonderful, transcendent, neutral, wise self.
Notice where your mind has gone and decide whether or not you want it to be where it is.
Be patient with yourself.
This is a critical component of mind management mastery. You cannot bully yourself into good mental health. Self-criticism, unrealistic expectations, unrelenting standards and any kind of self-depreciation will undermine your ability to achieve mastery. Taking responsibility for your actions is well and good but do so from a position of patience, in the full realisation of your inevitable imperfection. So watch how you talk to yourself about yourself. Catch unrealistic expectations, unkind language, pressure to perform and when you stuff up, don’t forget to smile at yourself as you do what you can to fix it up.
So let’s get serious. Time to detox.
In order to manage your mood with your mind you need to let go of other ways you have been doing it. You want to experience your emotions and not avoid them, so take away and distractions you use to help you hide away from what is going on inside of you. This includes alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, gambling, computer games, comfort eating, day dreaming and any other bad habits such as counting, checking etc. Please note: if you are physically dependent on alcohol or another substance and want to stop using this substance during the course you may need to consult your GP.
Observe what happens when you remove these distractions. If you experience an increase in discomfort, agitation, restlessness or anxiety then you will see how these distractions have been being used in order to help you avoid your emotions. This is good. Really! You want to be able to mind manage your emotions and not be dependent on distractions. Be warned though, if you do get too distressed because you are having difficulty with your ability to mind manage the feelings, then by all means take a distractor! We want to make it hard, but not too hard. If however, you can manage these emotions and actually manage to dissipate the feelings without reaching for a distractor then you are on your way to mind management mastery.
Our nervous systems are incredibly sensitive, we react to even subtle changes in our environment. When our brains pick up the slightest threat, our anxiety levels rise ever so slightly. We get a rise in adrenalin and a rise in cortisol. These are hormones that prepare our bodies to fight potential threats. We can experience a range of feelings. Some people have a very distinct feeling in the stomach, others have it in their chests, or the back of their throat. Some people hyperventilate. Others feel their bodies go tight in a freeze response. These experiences can become extremely uncomfortable panic attacks and, ironically, when this happens the fear of feeling like this can often trigger the feelings themselves. Significantly, however, although not everyone experiences a panic attack, we all experience panic. Especially when our environment changes our nervous gets us ready for just in case something bad is going to happen. We can identify these milder experiences as micro-panics. Mostly we push through these feelings and get on with whatever it is we are doing. This is well and good except if we keep pushing through our emotions we can become increasingly stressed, tense and detached from our experience of living. Conversely, if we get into the practice of catching these micro-panics as they arise and manage them effectively, we will get more efficient at managing our stress levels and we will become increasingly connected to how we are experiencing life. We don’t want to experience life second hand, we want to become increasingly open and connected so that we can feel truly alive.
In this week you want to identify your micro-panics and deal with them directly.
Dissonance is a beautiful word because it is related to a lack of harmony within yourself. Often the feeling of dissonance or discord within yourself is triggered by your thinking. Consider what ‘worry’ and ‘confusion’ feel like. A micro-panic will happen as a consequence of environmental cues. So when something changes in your environment your nervous system will detect the change and examine it for its potential to harm you. All of this happens before you even know what’s going on. Worry or confusion however have distinctly different feelings associated with them because the feelings are generated by our own thinking. Our own thinking can trigger a negative emotional experience associated with worry or confusion. These thoughts can generate symptoms such as headaches, tension, fogginess in the brain and difficulty concentrating. A micro-panic can trigger cognitive dissonance and cognitive dissonance can trigger a micro-panic but it is worthwhile noticing the different symptoms associated with each type of reaction.
When you identify cognitive dissonance try to identify the trigger. This is fine tuning you relationship with your emotions. Catch it early, catch it when it happens and not only is it easier to manage but you are dealing directly with the source of your disharmony rather than ending up submerged in a black hole of catastrophe and generalisation or detached and isolated from your experience of your life. Triggers are usually about people, places and situations. Notice dissonance and then identify a trigger. By identifying the trigger you can use your MMM to manage the emotion.
Self soothing is the fundamental component of managing your moods. Don’t wait until you are in a panic attack or in a black hole with your mood in your boots. Micro-manage your anxiety with self soothing. This is especially the case when you notice a micro-panic or identify a trigger. This week do not plough through your emotions, unless you have to, notice the emotion, label it and then take a few seconds to self soothe. Use your mind to calm yourself down. Settle yourself as you might an anxious child. Kindly, firmly, gently, look after yourself. Notice your distress and comfort yourself. When possible, self soothe before you react. If you want to live a powerful life, you need to respond to situations rationally rather than emotionally. If you self soothe first when you confront dissonance then you are much more likely to respond in a more effective and powerful way.
Regulate your breathing.
Learn to regulate your breathing. Breathing techniques are huge in helping you manage your moods and are an integral part of self soothing. There is some debate about what kind of breathing is best. For the most part it is recommended to take big slow breaths, deep into your abdomen and then followed with a long exhale. It may be useful just to breathe in through your nose, hold the breath for a few seconds and then breathe out through your mouth. Another technique is just to watch your breathing without trying to change the rhythm.
Use calming statements.
Another very useful way of self soothing is to use a calming statement. Used in conjunction with regular breathing, calming statements are a way of telling your brain that you are not stuck on the railway tracks with a train coming. They can be used to remind your brain that it is okay and you can cope. Given, of course, that you are not stuck on the railway tracks with a train coming!
Practice the HALTS.
Effectively moderating your mood requires that you take care of yourself. The HALTS are a good reminder to keep balance in your life by avoiding getting too hungry, angry, lonely, tired or serious.
Practice constructive prospecting.
Prospecting is the first step in a process of exploration. If you are prospecting for gold you set off on journey looking for gold. If you are prospecting for sales, you set off on a journey to generate sales. We use prospecting in MMM because of its emphasis on starting a journey towards something rather than on being focussed on the end result. Constructive prospecting in this module is to set off on a journey towards emotional regulation. Our steps include creating an idea of who you want to be, writing a script and then using whatever tools you have available during the day to practice being who you want to be.
Practice constructive relaxation.
If you take out your distractions, you might be left not knowing what to do with your free time. It is very interesting to experience the restlessness that comes with boredom, how easily we can become agitated wanting to fill the void with something because we are not using our usual distractions. Practicing constructive relaxation is about filling that void with something that is helpful rather than wasteful. I liken certain behaviours to empty calories. These are behaviours that have no ‘nutritional’ value. They do not nourish us or help us move forward in our lives, they are fullers that help us avoid experiencing the restlessness and agitation of boredom. So read a non-fiction book, or a good fiction novel rather than pulp fiction, watch a nature show rather than a soapie, go for a walk rather than play a computer game, phone a friend rather than ran a fantasy, eat a piece of fruit rather than a crisp (or two). Write your story rather than ruminate over it. Do something creative or learn something. Skip or dance. Do something that is good for you. This week use your mind to practice constructive relaxation. As part of your practice identifying dissonance, you will increasingly identify the restlessness or agitation that comes with wanting a distraction, this awareness will allow you the opportunity of choosing a different way to manage the dissonance.
You can manage your mind. It might feel like a lot to do but remember you are fine tuning the way your mind works. With increased practice it will get easier, with mastery, you will have started living life differently. Give it all you have got, it is so worth it.