30.01.2018 Relationships

Seven Mindful Body Moments

Author Noa Belling offers these simple tips for achieving greater harmony in life

To follow are seven Mindful Body Moments intended as options for healing old patterns and opening to ever greater emotional and relationship nourishment. In the process we can rewire our brains towards optimal functioning and connecting with each other.

These Mindful Body Moments are not intended as a comprehensive list or to be followed in any particular order. As you read through the various options you are invited to consider which you might like to experiment with or apply in your life. An overview of the seven Mindful Body Moments included here are:

On your own

‘Kind eyes’

Noticing self talk

Making space for what you love

With each other

Play!

Marking transitions lovingly

Making time to hear about each other’s day

Apologising and seeking repair soon

ON YOUR OWN

'Kind eyes'

Secure Attachment is considered to be a foundation for emotional health that is established in the first year or so of life and is based on the quality of the relationship between caregiver and baby.

One of the ingredients for Secure Attachment is a regular, loving gaze from caregiver to baby. Attachment expert Dr Diane Poole Heller refers to this as a ‘beam gleam’ or an ‘I’m special to you’ gaze.

If this was missing in your experience, it is possible to recreate it and feed it into your sense of self, now. Hopefully your current relationships offer moments of loving eye gaze that can help to repair old wounds. You can also use your imagination to help you here. To do so, imagine ‘kind eyes’ looking at you. This can be imagined as the loving gaze of a parent, or a friend who really loves you, or of a loving grandparent. Or you can picture the eyes of someone in your community who exudes kindness, or a spiritual leader who is truly compassionate and kind. For some, ‘kind eyes’ might be most easily imagined coming from a pet or an image of an animal. With the image of your choice, imagine that these ‘kind eyes’ are looking at you. For those who are more auditory than visual, you can instead imagine hearing the voice of a loving, kind person speaking to you. Practise softening to take the feeling of this kindness into your body and being.

‘Kind eyes’ grows your ability to come from a softer, heart-felt space in relationships and life. Take a few moments to notice how your body responds to ‘kind eyes’. You might notice your eyes feeling softer and that you gain a fuller, warmer sense of your body. You might feel your breathing become fuller too. There could also be a softening in your throat and belly as you take kindness in. Follow how your body responds for a few moments to really take in how you respond to this experience. Then see if you can look out into your day with even just a little more kindness in your eyes.

Next time you plan to speak with someone after an argument or perhaps when someone in your life is having a hard time, imagine ‘kind eyes’ before you go to them. Notice the effect on yourself and perhaps on the other person too, and notice how the conversation transpires.

Sometimes without noticing it our body language, eyes and tone of voice can convey anxiety, tension or even subtle aggression. ‘Kind eyes’ can turn this around quickly and change how others experience us.

Be kind to yourself in the process, too. It takes practice to sustain kindness. Even if you can achieve a few more seconds of coming from this kind place, it can make a big difference.

Noticing self talk

Core beliefs can show up in the kinds of thoughts and conversations we carry in our minds. You may have come to believe you are good, wanted, worthy, competent and loveable, leading you to feel good in your body and your life. This can give you a sense that relationships can be nourishing and that life is worth living. Or you may have come to believe that you are bad, unwanted, worthless, helpless or unlovable, leading you to feel uncomfortable in your body and unsettled in life. This can give you the perception that relationships are problematic and life is hard and burdensome.

As you become skilled at catching your self talk, you can practise turning an inner critic into an inner supporter. If you notice yourself thinking, I don’t deserve this, or, I am ugly, notice how your body feels in response to these criticisms and then choose another thought that is positive, even if you cannot connect with it yet. Maybe you can frame the thought as a question to help you, such as, ‘What if I am worthy?, or, ‘What if I really am beautiful, especially to those who love me?’ Then feel into how your body responds, and encourage these kinds of positive messages to stay with you for as long as you can.

You might explore new possibilities such as being lovable, capable, or anything you like, and breathe your desired quality through you, to help you stand into it and become it more fully. You can also catch your body’s reaction, first, and then notice the message relating to that reaction. So you might notice, ‘Oh, I am standing like this and breathing like this and I feel tense or out of balance in this part of my body.’ You can also notice the outlook that goes with the reaction and then choose a new way that you’d prefer to stand, look and breathe to seek an attitude adjustment.

Treat this as a reminder of your ability to change your body in order to change your mind, or to change your mind in order to change your body. In doing so you can free even deep-seated beliefs, self talk and postural habits to be more supportive and empowering.

Making space for what you love

Making time to explore and develop interests and talents can help us to feel inspired and fulfilled in a way that can spill over into our being warmly available for others. This also feeds a healthy sense of self. How much do you make time for the things you love? It could be family, a hobby or a form of creative expression, friends, your pets or spending time in nature. Or, for some, your work is your greatest love; perhaps you dream of making it your passion your livelihood.

There is no formula to tell you how much time you should spend doing the things you love. Perhaps make sure that each day factors in some quality time to invest in what brings you joy and fulfillment. This also extends to making time to give the people you love some quality attention regularly. Pausing for these kinds of Mindful Body Moments can feel like essential food for your heart and soul.

WITH EACH OTHER

Play!

Eye-to-eye, engaging, perhaps competitive, fun feeds our sense of loving, playful connection that can stimulate healthy brain and nervous system functioning. Board games, sharing in sporting activities, getting on the floor with your children to join them in play, and even reading to each other, are many ways to have fun. The key is social engagement, as opposed to parallel play such as sitting in front of a computer screen or television together that does not encourage our interaction.

Marking transitions lovingly

Taking a few conscious moments to say hello and goodbye can be a meaningful way to acknowledge and support each other in the midst of life’s comings and goings. This type of support grows a sense of loving connection and emotional support in your relationships.

One idea is a ‘Welcome Home Hug’ as introduced by Stan Tatkin, relationship expert and author of Wired For Love. Tatkin speaks about how our nervous systems co-regulate when we exchange a belly-to-belly hug. He recommends it as a regular practice with our loved ones, such as on arriving home at the end of each day. The trick is to stay in the hug for long enough to feel your body soften and connect with your partner to get the full nervous system regulation effect. This can melt away tension while melting you both back into connection with each other and it only takes a few moments.

You can also use this technique with your children by pausing to connect with them through a loving hug, held for long enough to sense your connection.

For those not in an intimate relationship or without people to regularly connect with in this way, the touch chapter in the book, The Mindful Body, can help with this kind of nervous system regulation, by replacing hugs with the tangible support from your own hands.

Making time to hear about each other’s day

If couples spend around 30 minutes talking with each other about their day, each day, it can contribute to a lasting and healthy relationship. This talking needs to be meaningful and touch on what has been on the other’s mind and how they have felt through the day.

Modern life places a lot of pressure on us. Making the time to connect is vital to sustain a sense of love and support. This applies to other important people in our lives, too, whom we need to make regular time for – even if it’s not daily.

What does this have to do with the body? Making quality time helps to maintain our emotional attunement, our sense of connection and our loving supportiveness. It raises our oxytocin levels towards quieting the stress response and increases access to our brain’s mature prefrontal cortex and our Social Nervous System, supporting the development of both.

Apologising and seeking repair soon

Conflict is a natural part of living together. Disagreements will happen. The sooner we can find our way back to supporting each other, the sooner our negativity will leave and the better life will be for all parties.

By being the ‘bigger’ person and apologising first, you can practise turning arguments around more quickly. Even if you believe it was not your fault, there usually is something you can own and apologise for. Maybe you weren’t really listening or maybe you forgot to do something even if you had a valid reason, or maybe you said something hurtful even if you did not intend to.

When one person apologises it can turn the whole energy in the room around, perhaps inviting the other person or people to do the same. This frees everyone’s minds from emotional hijack, so that sensible solutions can be considered.

Perhaps in the process we can all savour some heartfelt closeness. Not only does this feel good, investing in these moments also develops our Social Nervous System and hones our capacity for empathy and compassion. Any time we respond maturely it also develops our prefrontal cortex, which holds our most highly evolved capacity for brain functioning. Added to this, on a body level, releasing your stress response sooner is healthier for your body and mind. These are all good reasons to make the effort to be the ‘bigger’ person. The truth is, everyone makes mistakes and we can all learn and grow from our experiences.
© Noa Belling 2017 This is an edited extract from The Mindful Body by Noa Belling (Rockpool Publishing, $29.99, 12 Feb 2018)
Noa Belling

Noa Belling is a psychotherapist and acclaimed author who teaches we can use our body to achieve mindfulness and harmony in life

She is appearing at these events in February 2018 https://www.rockpoolpublishing.com.au/events

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