Do you ever experience annoying mind chatter, negative self-talk, or intrusive/petty criticism of yourself and others? Yep, me too. Some days are relatively peaceful, but other days feel like a presidential debate in my head (and nobody enjoys that kind of dog fight).
What to do about it? Well, turning things around might be easier than you think. And what I'm going to recommend is based on the relationship between your head and your heart.
You see, we tend to think of the heart as being mushy and sentimental (weak), and the brain as being capable of neutrality and reason (strong). We think we can talk ourselves and others out of our feelings and moods by applying any number of manipulative techniques, such as minimizing, theorizing, justifying, denying, correcting, consoling, cheering up, bargaining, etc. The problem is that if those tactics worked (beyond the band-aid effect) we wouldn't continue to be so stressed out and judgmental. And. We. Are.
It turns out that the heart (physical organ + major energy center) is the rhythm-setting powerhouse of the entire body and mind. In their book, Transforming Stress: The HeartMath Solution for Relieving Worry, Fatigue and Tension, Childre and Rozman write: "The heart's electromagnetic field has forty to sixty times more amplitude than that of the brain, while the heart's magnetic field is approximately five thousand times stronger than the field produced by the brain."
And I recently heard a similar statistic, that sixty times more information is sent from the heart to the brain than from the brain to the heart. So you can begin to see why it's a waste of time to rely on your head to influence your feelings. The real power lies in using your heart to influence your head (which then leads to improved moods and reduced stress).
Going to your "Happy Place"
Here comes the easy part (maybe not the first time, but it gets easier each time you do it). When you're angry, depressed, judgmental---stop for a second and close your eyes. Put your left (or non-dominant) hand on your heart area, and breathe slowly and deeply, as if actually breathing in through the heart, and out through the heart.
If might help to slowly count from one to five with each inhale, and one to five with each exhale, or say to yourself, "breathe in through the heart....breathe out through the heart...." The key is to focus your attention on your heart, breathe deeply, and disregard input from the brain. You're consciously directing attention away from your head and into your chest.
If you're a chronic over-thinker (or control freak!), this could be difficult or even feel threatening the first time you try it, but ultimately you have to ask yourself whether or not you're willing to feel better and/or stop the inner battle.
For me, this exercise works great, because experience has taught me that the heart is a safe zone, a feel-good place. If you tap into something sad, it's not coming from your heart: it's coming from somewhere else in your body (the body stores all sorts of unhealed and repressed stuff), but the heart---which is the seat of the Higher Self---remains a beacon of light to the weary traveler.
Please let me know how this works for you or if you have any questions. You can leave a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also be interested in learning more about the Institute of HeartMath. They have great books and trainings, and the following article does a good job of summing up their approach: pbs.org/heartmath.