Now that we are beginning to fully understand just how significant our emotional health is to our overall quality of life, we need to develop a game plan to attend to it, just as we do for our physical health, nutrition and sleep. Part of that plan should include daily maintenance for our emotional health. That is why I created my “daily gummies” of wisdom — a supplement to boost awareness for our emotional health.
My daily gummies of wisdom are simple little reminders to help keep our emotional health on our radar screen. In this post today, I’m sharing a few of those gummies that turn the spotlight on cultivating greater awareness throughout our busy days. We can really level up our emotional health game plan through both self-awareness and “other” awareness.
Before we dive in, here’s a little food for thought. Have you noticed how much easier it might be for you to “show up” as calm, thoughtful and clear-headed when you are at work or with friends than when you are at home with your loved ones? What is it that keeps us from having a meltdown, losing it or shutting down when we are in those settings? Ironic isn’t it that often our “best behavior” is doled out to those who have a lower priority in our relationship schema.
Are you fascinated by the fact that we actually do have this remarkable capacity to “show up” or “meet the moment” with a boatload of agency, but we are often unaware of it? Our unconscious auto-pilot rarely lets us screw up where our integrity and character matter at work or with peers. But somehow it fails us when we are with those we love the most.
Here’s the giant clue: It is all about awareness. At work, with friends, in public – we have a keen awareness of how we want to be presenting ourselves. We are instinctively anchored in our values and personal integrity. Simply put, we are anchored in our self-awareness.
But when we are at home, we want to get comfortable, to relax, to be our true selves and that means dialing down the bright spotlight of self awareness. We need a break from being on our best behavior – and we often rely on the foundation of our most meaningful relationships to just accept us as we are; unfiltered.
I will let you in on a game-changing secret. When we can learn to pivot and bring all that public persona awareness into our personal relationships, we will be leveling up our emotional health in dynamic and transformational ways. And yes, we can still relax at home, be at ease and be our true selves. In fact, our most valued relationships will become our treasured safe haven and major recharging station for life.
It is the “unfiltered” lack of awareness of both ourselves and our family members that is the problem. Change your filter, change your life. Keep your filters clean and working optimally.
As you read through my “gummies of wisdom” today, keep that distinction as the backdrop. Think about how you “show up” for a friend and how you “show up” for a spouse or child in a similar situation (or even how you show up for yourself).
My first gummy really sets the stage for amping up our awareness:
We human beings are truly marvelous creatures — we have a plethora of senses to help us navigate our lives — not just the 5 senses with which we are most familiar, but actually 8 senses!
We are all quite familiar with our first 5 senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch.
Our 6th sense is is our interoception, the perception of our interior. Interoception is all the signals we get from our body — from our muscles, bones, hearts, lungs and intestines. These signals feel like a racing heart, tense shoulder muscles or a clenched jaw, butterflies in our stomach, or labored breathing.
(Think about how your body feels when you are having a major disagreement with your partner, or when your child is having a temper tantrum.)
Our 7th sense is our ability to be aware of mental activity — emotions, thoughts and memories. The real superpower we possess is not only the ability to be aware of our emotions, thoughts and memories but to choose how to engage with them.
We become much more discerning about how our mental activities are “informing” our behaviors and responses to life when we hone our “awareness” of emotions, thoughts and memories.
Our 8th sense is our “relational” sense – our sense of connection with people, pets, nature, the planet. This is the big distinctive pivot. This 8th sense is on high alert when we are at work, with friends, in public. But for some peculiar reason, it goes offline when we are with our loved ones.
Here is a personal story to shed more light on this very subject: My husband Skip and I were playing golf. He was a scratch golfer and loved the game, but on this particular Sunday afternoon, he was struggling. And the more he let those disgruntled feelings show, the worse he was playing and the less fun we were having together. I asked him if he would be behaving this way if he were playing with his work colleague, Charlene Davidson. He gave me a puzzled look and responded, “No, I would be on my best behavior.” I smiled at him and said “I deserve your best behavior.” You guessed it — it was an “aha” moment; and that pivot turned our day around in the most pleasant way.
This gummy about our 8 senses is a super supplement. It is that 8th sense of connection to others that jumpstarts a major awareness shift. Think about this the next time you are at home with your loved ones. Think about how hard you work to support, provide and care for them and about the sacrifices you are willing to make for them. Now enter that conversation, that disagreement or interaction from the portal of what that relationship truly means to you.
If we break apart the word “responsibility” it completes shifts our relationship with it. In the context that we often use the word “responsibility”, it can feel like a burden….something we must do (i.e. take responsibility). However, if we break the word apart and recognize its two distinct components, we can see clearly that our “ability” to chose our “responses” is rooted in our personal agency. We are not burdened, we are empowered.
Knee jerk reactions often leave us with consequences that aren’t reflective of our best selves. That’s why we feel guilt, shame or embarrassment. Knee jerk reactions set off a chain reaction that often involves our own personal discomfort, another’s hurt or discomfort, and accountability for rupture and repair. That’s a lot of time and energy that could have been used more productively.
“Response Ability” grounds us in our integrity and reminds us that we do have agency — that super power to choose. We not only choose to meet the moment calmly and more skillfully, we use our natural resources of time and energy wisely.
This gummy of wisdom fits like a puzzle piece with the first gummy about our 8 senses. Once again, it is another pivot that brings better results quickly. How we respond to a situation (rather than auto-pilot reacting) smooths out a lot of relationship bumps. Think of it like this — if we are paying attention to our driving when we are in heavy traffic, we ease on the brakes. If we are not paying attention, we may have to slam on the brakes suddenly. Our “response” ability is just like that.
With this gummy of wisdom, we are back to the “filters” we use. Think about filters like sunglasses or reading glasses. We slip them on when we want to protect our eyes or see something more clearly. It’s the same concept for the unconscious filters we are using for each situation and interaction we have.
So often, we are not consciously aware of all the filters we are using to take in a current situation. Our filters have been with us since childhood and they act just like water filtration systems to catch our 8 senses and our attention. If we haven’t cleaned those filters for decades, the old debris and outdated information that’s been accumulated traps the opportunity to take in new data.
Beginner”s mind is a concept often used in meditation, reminding us to be “unfiltered” and let all our thoughts flow — not to cling to them, or allow them to muddy up the waters of the present moment.
Beginner’s mind is also a tool we can use to hack our clogged filtering systems and begin to be with a current experience with a fresh clean slate.
There’s a bonus packed into this skill as well. The more we practice “beginner’s mind”, the cleaner and more current our unconscious filtering system becomes. Out with the old and in with the new!
Get into the habit of changing your inner filter and discover the magical difference it makes.
This last gummy is an invitation to spend a day discovering where you attention goes while you are busy engaged in life. We’ve all had that experience of pouring a cup of steaming hot coffee, and eagerly anticipating enjoying it fully. A few minutes later, our mug is empty and we don’t even remember drinking that coffee. Or we are driving to the grocery store and realize that our mind has wandered elsewhere and is not paying attention to the upcoming traffic jam.
The truth is that our attention is constantly activating our brain. We are “feeding” our brain all kinds of things throughout the day — and some of it is like junk food or junk mail. Do you want to be more discerning about what you activate in your brain?
If you answered yes, then start paying attention to your attention. In fact, play with your attention — it’s about the same experience as playing with a busy toddler who is always on the move. You wouldn’t let a toddler on their own for a day, but we often do just tat with our attention.
We let our attention run off and meander into all kinds of places while we are simultaneously driving a car, making dinner, playing a game with our kids, or talking on the phone with a friend. Start paying attention to your meandering attention. See if you can bring it back to the present moment. See if you can keep it focused for even a few minutes on the task at hand.
We can become very skillful at using our attention intentionally. This is so good for our brains and extremely helpful for our emotional health. Dr. Peter Attia, author of the longevity book, Outlive, reinforces the fact that we are most content and satisfied with our life – in the present moment.
Where attention goes, neural firing flows and neural connection grows. We are actually activating important parts of our brain with our focused attention. If we want to cultivate a growth mindset and keep our brains upgraded as often as we do our phones, we need to pay attention to how we are using and directing our attention.
By the way, there is a bonus feature to paying attention in our present moments. We become much more skillful at tapping in to all 8 of our senses. The salient qualities of our remarkable brains tend to come online and stay online in an integrated fashion.
The more we cultivate greater self-awareness, the more we are likely to equally grow our “other awareness”. This helps us tap into another awesome ability we have — the ability to “attune” to others. Think of this skill set like putting on your oxygen mask first. You attend to yourself and get grounded, calm and clear-minded. (A few deep breaths will fast track this practice). Then you attune to what your child or partner may be experiencing. We co-regulate each other, so if you can meet the moment with some empathy and understanding, chances are you will be offering what you instinctively know would feel helpful to you in a similar situation.