One of my favorite activities with my clients, young or old, is to talk with them about their wise mind and help them access it. We all have one; it is more commonly referred to as your gut instinct, intuition, or common sense. It is the ability to make healthy decisions about your life based on both your rational thoughts (left brain) and your emotions (right brain). Daniel Siegel refers to this as the whole-brain approach, or integration. Integration is linking the left-brain logic with the right-brain emotions so that you can improve your decision making by having better control of your body and emotions. We want to find a balance between our emotions and logic so that we experience harmony and well-being. If we are just emotional we can experience chaos and a lack of control. If we are just logical and thinking we can be too rigid and too in control so that we lack flexibility and adaptability. So, how do we combine the left and the right?
One strategy is the “Name it to Tame it” strategy. Brain research has revealed that finding words for feelings deactivates the part of the brain that initiates a stress response. By naming the emotion you access the reasoning side of your left brain to make sense of the feeling in order to calm or tame the right brain’s stress and emotional response. Another strategy is to take the time to learn to identify when you are moving into an overly emotional state, what are your warning signs? What happens to your body when you are angry, scared, or stressed? Do your muscles tense up, your heart race, or does your breathing become shallow? When this happens, practice S.T.O.P. Stop, Take a Breath, Observe the situation, and Proceed. This is an emotional regulation strategy. It takes recognizing when your emotions are escalating and slowing down to observe you are safe and can handle the situation in a wise way. Lastly, try practicing something calming and relaxing every day. Maybe that is going for a walk or run, meditating, yoga, or praying. By practicing something calming every day, you are being proactive and setting the stage for greater calmness in the future. You are building a habit of calm. The more you practice being calm, the easier it will be to access it when you need it most and use your wise mind.
Resources – The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, McKay, Wood, & Brantley and The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D.