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Seeking Refuge

Seeking Refuge

Sleeping CatPsychology 101 teaches students everywhere that besides food, water, and air, the most basic of human needs is SAFETY.  Just watching the news today can be traumatizing.  It seems the news networks are building their audience and profits by sensationalizing real and/or perceived threats to their viewers’ personal and public safety.  We’re easily captivated by the shock and horror of natural disasters and man’s capability to commit heinous acts.  Whatever the headline, it grasps our attention, shakes us up, and dares us to let go.  What does one do with the barrage of real threats and sensationalism around us?  Where does one find refuge?  How can we create a sense of peace and carry on our lives a productive and optimistic way?  Here are a few suggestions for keeping your feet on the ground, your head lifted high, and getting-on-with-it amidst the chaos of everyday life.

*Surround yourself with positive people.

We feed off of each others’ energy and attitudes.  We feel happier around happy people.  Find the people in your life that encourage the experiences and state of mind you crave.  Strengthen those relationships.  Let them know how much you value them.  Replay the positive messages you’ve heard from those you love and respectBelieve in yourself.  Recall those revitalizing messages that give you energy when you hear the voice of fear, self doubt, or criticism in your head.  Write yourself a letter of encouragement.  Practice being a friend to YOU.


Take a time-out to redirect your thoughts to the present moment.  Be mindful of your existence in the immediate environment.  Focus on your breath and how it feels filling your lungs and belly, and leaving your body through a slow exhale.  Notice any tension in your body as you breathe.  Notice the sounds and smells around you and let them go.  Do this for five minutes each day and you will begin to feel more at peace and less stressed out. 

*Relish happy experiences past, present, and future.

Write about them.  Spend a few minutes each day reminiscing about good times and future plans and goals.  This can change your brain structure in positive ways.  Writing about cherished memories and ideas strengthens the neurological chain of events responsible for positive-thought processes.  It also gives you another way of appreciating them.  Our brains naturally attend to negative aspects of our environment to keep us safe.  Retrain your brain to notice the joyful, empowering ones more easily!

*Accept that fear is a feeling.

It’s not a guarantee that something negative will happen.  Notice your feeling.  Label it.  Let it go.  Use your imagination to allow feelings to drift by like a cloud in the sky or a leaf on a stream.  Don’t get caught up in that feeling.  Simply notice it, name it, and let it go.  That moment of emotional distance from your feelings can result in a more peaceful, productive, problem-solving state of mind.

*Celebrate each day.

Appreciate the people, places, and activities that feed your soul.  Notice even the tiniest of pleasures.  Be an active participant in life.  Let others know that you value them.  You’re not alone in feeling negative feelings.  It’s a normal part of life.  That’s what makes it so important to demonstrate gratitude and nurture the sources of your well-being at every opportunity.

*Laugh & Smile.

The act of smiling forces a chain reaction of muscular, hormonal, and neural activity that is associated with happiness.  It therefore is difficult to hold onto negative feelings when smiling.  Laughter is associated with strengthening the immune system due to the physiology involved.  Here is some information about this… http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/05/can-laughter-be-therapeutic/ Try it right now!  It can actually lift your mood

*Distract yourself.

The more time and energy you devote to fearful or negative thoughts, the more power you give them.  The effect can be stifling for positive behaviors.  Do what makes you smile.  Go for a walk.  Spend time with old friends, family, or neighbors.  Treat yourself to a show, dinner, massage, or yoga class.  Do the opposite of negative thoughts and behaviors.  You deserve to feel good!

Heather Edwards, LMHC, BCC

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