Autumn for me holds many very cosy associations. Blankets, candles and hot drinks… but I know that for many people autumn is a time where depression looms and certain health conditions become more bothersome.
So I have put together 5 simple exercises for you to try, that can help you stay calm and perhaps a bit more upbeat this autumn. For many of you, these exercises won’t be new, or may even seem way too simple, however, it is the commitment we give to the simple exercise that makes it effective and that often is also the hardest thing about doing these exercises. While they are very simple, they require us to not be in a rush or preoccupied. So when you feel ready to take a moment out of your busy day to explore these exercises with an open mind, here they are:
First of all, take a moment to just notice what is going on for you. Are you tired? Worried? In a rush or in pain? Most of the time we try to escape the discomforts that we experience. Unfortunately, that is never helpful in the long run. So notice them now and wonder if you can accept that they are there. It doesn’t mean that you are accepting their presence for the rest of your life. It just means that you are accepting the reality you are in right at this moment. And how would it be to say to this discomfort, that you have no intention to get rid of it and that you much rather want to support it, so it can settle a bit? Give this inner conversation a moment and notice what the response is. In most cases, you may feel a softening of some sort. Of course, we hold a lot of energy inside and connecting to ourselves in this embodied way can sometimes be overwhelming. So if you feel that this exercise is triggering for you, rather than softening, orient towards an activity that helps you distract yourself from the discomfort and leave the following exercises for another day, or feel free to reach out to me for a little more support around this.
Take a moment to slowly look around the space you are in. Take your time, as though you are looking at it for the first time. Notice what kind of objects or views have a simple and pleasant resonance inside you. You can let your eyes linger on such a pleasant view and notice what subtly changes inside your body. Again sometimes the space we are in is not helpful to us. You could try this exercise again when you are outdoors in nature perhaps.
Maybe you are lying down, sitting or standing. It doesn’t matter, because no matter what position you are in, the ground is always in contact with you and supporting you. Notice what part of you is most heavily against the ground. Feel into this heaviness for a moment. Can you acknowledge that you do not have to hold yourself? Gravity is doing it all for you, there is absolutely nothing you need to do. How does your body respond when you acknowledge that the ground always supports you?
Breathing is often a powerful tool to help us shift our nervous system state. This is so because our breath is one of the very few, very automatic functions of our nervous system, that we have some control over. This makes it a very deeply powerful tool. So when you explore any breathing exercises, do so gently and with care. You can always stop and allow your breath to flow more instinctively if you find it uncomfortable in any way.
So first of all, notice your breath. Sometimes it is enough to just notice it and allow it to function in whatever way it wants to, without any pressure to manipulate it. As you do this you could gently extend the exhales. When we are in a safe and relaxed state our out-breaths tend to be a little longer than our in-breaths. Likewise when we are agitated our out-breaths tend to be shorter. So if you very gently tease your exhales out that little bit longer you may create a shift in your nervous system into a more settled and calm state.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a loop of bleak thoughts and feelings. Everything seems dark and hopeless. It is hard to just be with ourselves in the present moment when everything is so unpleasant.
So here is something I want to share with you. Our nervous system does not fully understand the difference between reality and fiction. That is why we enjoy exciting movies. When we think of something our body resonates almost as though it is real. We can use this to our advantage and in fact, martial arts athletes do this all the time. They meditate, imagining the fight they are about to enter as a way to prepare that is less harsh on their body. The physical reactions they have as they imagine the fight are measurable.
You don’t need to be an athlete to make use of this secret power too. All you need to be able to do is to daydream. Take a moment to think about what you would like to feel inside right now. Maybe you want to feel more hopeful? Or more energetic? Maybe you just want to feel more comfortable or more excited about life? Then take a moment to remember a time when you felt the way you want to feel now. It is okay if several different experiences come to mind. You can start with one and then also explore the others. And if you struggle to remember a time when you felt the way you want to feel now, realise that you must have experienced it at some point because otherwise, you would not know that you want it. Does that make sense?
So once you have found memory of a time when you felt the way you want to feel now, take a moment to sense into it. You can literally have a look around this memory and orient within it. What did you see? What were the colours and levels of lighting? What did you hear around you? What did you say? What did you smell? And what or how did you feel? What was the temperature? Was there a breeze? How did you make contact with the ground or your surroundings? How did you feel inside your body?
Then notice how your body resonates with this memory in the here and now and orient inside to the areas where you feel this resonance the most. if you can, try to expand this sensation further and seek other areas where you can also detect it.
Then imagine yourself going through the rest of your day in this state.
Now, do you feel different? You could make this a daily 10-minute practice. Or if you found yourself struggling with these exercises, simply reach out to me and we can explore this together in a complementary zoom call.