Practicing these Daily Twelve Emotional Fitness Exercises will strengthen your ability to control negative feelings.
You take a Calming Breath by breathing in slowly, holding that breath to allow a bit of tension build, breathing out as you consciously relax from your head on down to your toes. Then as you breathe normally, smile gently and say a silent “Ahhh” or “Thank you,” before going on with what you need or want to do.
EXERCISE ONE: Practice gratitude. Remember all you have to be grateful for—life, love, a beautiful world. List in your head at least three specific things you are grateful for.
EXERCISE TWO: Remember what matters. Some say what matters most is buying the newest car, the latest fashions, the most up to date gadgets; others say how you look; still others think it is how smart you are or what school you went to, how much money you have, have many jewels you wear, or how fancy a car you drive and life’s important missions. They are wrong.
The importance of caring is a long recognized value. Across all ages, throughout all religions and all philosophies, it is believed the good life cannot be found unless it involves being caring and just. EFTI calls this The Mission. We are all charged with moving the world forward by remembering and acting on the mission.
The wisdom of the ages has been upheld by research. Study after study has shown that that being kind and caring, forgiving others for their flaws, forgiving yourself for not being perfect, and working with others to make the world a better place matters far more than the things we own, the way we look, or what degrees with have. Remember the mission, act on it and grow emotionally stronger.
EXERCISE THREE: Move your body. Moving your body for only 20 minutes a day, and just hard enough to raise your heart rate, not only improves your emotional fitness, but helps you stay physically healthy. Brisk walking works well. So does some heart raising dancing. Three ten minute periods work as well as one twenty minute period. A quick stretch off and on during the day, or before and after walking, is also important.
EXERCISE FOUR: Be with beauty. Look at a beautiful picture. Listen to music that stirs your soul. Recall a song you love. Watch a bird soar. If you cannot actually do any of these things at the moment, remember the last time you did. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” What is beautiful to you may not be beautiful to the next person. There is no world wide standard for beauty. One person’s slender star is another’s bag of bones. One person’s scenic view is another person’s desolate and lonely vista or barren dessert. Surround yourself with what you find beautiful in every way you can, and take the time to be with that beauty.
EFTI’s Pinterest Be With Beauty Board is a great place to start.
EXERCISE FIVE: Honor past gifts. This exercise asks you to pay special attention to those responsible for all you have or are right now. We are the continuation of all the generations leading up to ours. We are the continuation of the caring our immediate, extended families, friends, and teacher gave. Some gave a great deal, others gave less. Each gave all they could.
The most powerful way to honor past gifts is to focus on a memory of one person from your past who gave the gift of caring. That person may not have always been nurturing; nevertheless, the gifts they gave became part of who you are today.
You can honor the gift from a different person each time you do the exercise. You honor gifts by taking a calming breath, shutting your eyes, and recalling a time you and the person spent together when you felt cherished, cheered on, or otherwise nurtured. When you honor such past gifts, you give yourself the gift of caring all over again.
EXERCISE SIX: Practice Kindness: We need positive connections to others, and kindness builds those connections. Practicing kindness is a major self-care skill. Being kind to others almost always gets repaid with kindness. Smile at someone and most of the time you will get a smile in return. When you don’t, at least you have done the right thing. One of the easiest ways to practice kindness is to compliment strangers. Giving and getting kindness is not only essential to your health, it is a way to act on The Mission.
EXERCISE SEVEN: Value all you do. Modern life disconnects us from the fruits of our labor. For some, paychecks are often the only concrete measurement of work done; for others it might be a grade or a report card. Sometimes the full results of all our work will not be visible for years. In the helping professions we might never know how we have helped. This is not good for our souls. Doing something, no matter how small, that yields an immediate, concrete, and positive result nourishes our well being. Folding a basket of laundry, cleaning out one messy drawer, washing dishes, pulling some weeds, chopping wood or writing and mailing a postcard to a distant friend, are examples of small goals.
It also helps to make one of the small goals you reach for each day, exercising your creativity. Write a few lines in your journal, work on a poem, start a painting, knit a few rows of an afghan, add some lines to the great American novel, sing a song, dance a dance, tend a garden, bake some bread, carve some wood.
Finally, several times during the day, stop and review all you have done. We often complain about our to do list, but don’t keep adequate track of all we do. Stop right now and start a little list of “done that” for the day.
Here’s how mine would go for the first hour and half of a day when I care for my grands: up, showered, combed hair, brushed teeth, dressed, put coffee on, walked Punky the pup. While walking picked up trash littering complex’s lawns. Made breakfast for self and hubbie, ate, answered five emails, read about a hundred tweets, re-tweeted ten; pinned two items to my Pinterest Board and then my two grandchildren arrived. And I am retired. My daughter-in-law had followed much the same routine without the tweets, but also had to get two kids up, dressed, fed, put in their car seats, drive half an hour to our apartment, cart the kids into the house, and then drive another twenty minutes to her job.
Everyone of us does so much and are valued for so little. Make a point of valuing all you do. As you recount all you have done, remember to take pleasure in all your small steps toward fulfilling The Mission.
EXERCISE EIGHT: Laugh and play. The day is empty that does not hold a few minutes of play and laughter. Make room for such time in your day. When possible, include others in both the laughter and the play. Playfulness is another important component of self-care. Play is thought by many researchers to improve intelligence. Minimally, it helps build the social skills needed to get along with others. Finally, play is also a useful way to move your body, combining two Emotional Fitness Training® Exercises in one.
EXERCISE NINE: Indulge in a healthy pleasure. Do one thing each day that you consider a luxury or an indulgence. Do it in a healthy way. This might involve giving yourself a hand or foot massage, eating and fully savoring a favorite food or a cup of tea, doing a cross word puzzle, letting one piece of chocolate melt in your mouth. The important thing is this be something just for you, and that it be an indulgence of your needs.
EXERCISE TEN: Forgive another. Review the day. Maybe some hurt or anger lingers on from when someone said something unkind. Did someone treat you unfairly? Take without giving in return? Break a promise? Betray a hope? Embarrass you in public? Say or do something cruel? Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, or staying with those who are abusive. As Bishop Tutu tells us, forgiveness means letting go of revenge and stopping the circle of hurt. To practice forgiving another, see the person coming to you as a small child, sad and upset, and asking you to forgive them. No one is perfect and all of us start our march through the world innocent babies.
EXERCISE ELEVEN: Forgive yourself. Perhaps the negative you need to let go of is some wrong you did. Maybe you treated another unfairly. Maybe you were angry or thoughtless and now regret your actions. When you need forgiveness, it means stopping the wrongful behavior, not repeating it and sometimes making amends. We all fail to do or be our best. We all make mistakes. We all need forgiveness for one thing or another. When you need forgiveness, see yourself as a small child approaching the person you want to forgive you. See that person smiling down on you with forgiveness and acceptance.
EXERCISE TWELVE: Be in the now. Yesterday is gone. The past cannot be changed. What was good in the past can and should be savored. The hurts of the past should be honored for their lessons and then laid to rest.
The future has not yet come. Worrying about what will be is useless. As the humorist Mark Twain noted: “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Making thoughtful plans for your future is reasonable. Worrying about what might happen is not. Do what you can and then let the future take care of it self.
Being in the now is a way of letting go of the day and preparing yourself for sleep. In fact it works so well for some that they often don’t stay awake long enough to practice the next exercise. If as you are observing the now, you find yourself drifting off, be grateful.
- Take a long slow, calming breath.
- Breathe normally and just notice what it feels like to breathe in and out.
- As you breathe in and out, notice how your body feels.
- Watch how thoughts come and go.
- If a negative thought seems to get stuck in your head, take another calming breath.
- As you breathe out, say “Now is all.”
- Notice again what it feels like just to breathe.
- When you are ready, take a final calming breath.
Many people make it a point to practice this exercise at night to help them fall asleep. Doing so and adding Being Grateful increases the possibility of having sweet dreams.
Life is difficult and often a struggle as you must know by now. All sorts of feelings surface. Some want to own you and do when you do things you later regret. Try my exercises and tips to stay in control.
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DISCLAIMER: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS FOR I HAVE DYSGRAPHIA. If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. I have dysgraphia which means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are. Thanks for your understanding and reading my work.
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