5 great questions to ask the universe when things aren’t going great!

Sometimes all it takes is a question to re-frame and start to see things differently. So here are 5 helpful questions to ask if things are not going great, if you are stuck in a rut or if you are just in need of a different perspective.

 

What else is possible?

What can I learn from this?

How will I look back on this with gratitude a year from now?

What is helpful about this that I’m not seeing?

What would it take to grow from this experience?

 

The questions don’t have to stop there! Questions can help us even when things are going well, so here are 5 great questions to ask the universe when things are going great!

What else is possible?

What have I learned that got me here?

What am I grateful for now (even things that seemed bad at the time)?

What would it take to keep growing?

What can I contribute?

 

‘What else is possible?’ is one of the key questions in Access Consciousness. If you are curious to find out more, you can take a look at what (the bleep) is Access Consciousness

Image credit: Pixabay

Are you getting in your own way?

I didn’t know it, but I have totally been getting in my own way!

Here is how I’ve started to move over…

I discovered Access Consciousness Bars a short while ago when I attended an introduction to Bars class with Jessica Summers. After my first experience of it, I was keen to take it further.

More recently, I attended an Access Consciousness Bars Practitioner course with Jessica which involved running Bars on others and also having my own Bars run. (Running Bars is the term used for touching points on the head related to bars of energy that correspond to different thoughts or points of view such as creativity, control, awareness, time and space and many more).

I’m not sure what I expected but over the following few days I started to notice points of view I had been holding that had been getting in my way without me having realised they were there.

 

A seemingly small and silly example was the point of view I had been holding that ‘I am always tired and never feel awake in the morning’.

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To all intents and purposes, this was true for me.

In fact, my experience had taught me that this was resoundingly true. After many years of disturbed and too little sleep (which came along with having two lovely children), I had come to a conclusion that tiredness was just part of life now. I would never have actively questioned or challenged this belief.

This was it for me – even though my children now sleep through the night 95% of the time.

I woke up tired.

I dragged myself through the shower.

I lived in a heavy fog of tiredness until around mid-morning almost every day.

I expected it and to a large part, I accepted it. On the occasions I didn’t feel it, I always expected it to return to get me later!

 

But here’s the thing – after having my Bars run I realised I didn’t have to feel tired if I wasn’t actually tired.

This sounds ridiculously obvious but it was a strange revelation just after getting out of bed a couple of days after the class.

I’d had enough sleep and I didn’t need to feel tired. As I realised, my vision literally sharpened up and I felt awake!

It feels important to say that the realisation did not come in the form of a ‘should’ e.g. I should feel awake/I shouldn’t feel tired. It was simply that I didn’t need to feel tired if I wasn’t actually tired!

I realised my body had been feeling tired out of habit even if I’d had good quality sleep. Coupled with my own expectation of feeling bloody knackered all the time, of course I continued to feel knackered. Why would I not?

My points of view were preventing me from feeling any other way.

 

Surely this was a fluke? Surely it wouldn’t continue?

But actually, so far it has. This is not to say that I never feel tired, but now I only feel tired when it is appropriate to feel tired and it isn’t as much of a big deal when I am. It has a different quality to it and doesn’t feel like exhaustion or like such a heavy weight.

 

What more is possible?

It may sound daft, but just this one change has been really significant for me and has opened up new possibilities. Some mornings, I’ve got out of bed and been for a run. For anyone who knows me, you know that this is unheard of!

I’m not in such a rush because I haven’t snoozed my alarm 3 times in a row.

My mornings feel so much easier!

 

Awareness is key

It has been a helpful reminder that becoming aware of our thoughts, beliefs and points of view is absolutely key if we want to get out of our own way.

I had always thought of myself as being quite self aware. I’ve been a pscyhotherapist for a long time. I’m very accustomed to spotting and exploring the beliefs of my clients and exploring the beliefs I held that were accessible to me.

But I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Now I know that there are things I don’t know.

Now I believe that it may be possible to know more.

This feels like a good place to be.

 

In fact, the tagline on my Access Consciousness Bars Practitioner certificate reads: ’empowering people to know that they know’.

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Are you getting in your own way?

So how do we gain insight and access to more awareness?

Personally, I plan to continue having my Bars run.

If you don’t fancy having your Bars run, a simple thing you can do is to ask a question.

What beliefs or points of view are you absolutely taking for granted and treating as true?

Are they really true?

What barriers have you created that don’t really need to be there?

Is something else possible?

 

Have a lovely day!

Are you really grateful?

I’ve spoken to a lot of people recently who use gratitude journals and I use a gratitude app on my phone.

I am all for gratitude – but are there times when gratitude is not really gratitude?

A short while ago, I spoke to a client who was using a gratitude diary but rather than feeling happy, connected, or content afterwards, she was left feeling worse.

When we looked closer at how she was using her gratitude journal, she was actually drawing a comparison against people who were ‘worse off’ than her.

For example (mine, not the client’s):

‘I am grateful to have food on my plate because there are people starving in the world’.

This may be true but when we compare what we have against others, we rarely feel good. (Whether we judge ourselves to be better or worse off than the people we are comparing ourselves against)

This seems to me like guilt masquerading as gratitude.

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Of course I am not saying we shouldn’t think about these kinds of issues, but in my opinion, a felt sense of gratitude is more likely to be experienced without drawing comparisons.

However, if we were to act in a way to help those in need, for example by donating an item of food to our local food bank, the ability to do this may be something we feel genuinely grateful for.

Contrast this against doing nothing but thinking about people who are going hungry whilst trying to feel grateful for your tea!

 

Comparisons may not be the only gratitude pitfall

There is also the potential to frame gratitude in a negative way, which may take the edge off the feeling of gratitude.

Contrast:

‘I am grateful the kids didn’t misbehave in the car’

with:

‘I am grateful for a peaceful and enjoyable car journey with the kids’

When we frame our experiences as an absence of something negative it is probably not going to feel as nice as framing our experiences in terms of gaining something positive.

 

Last of all…

If (like me) you tend to fall into a pattern of starting your gratitude journal entries with the same old ‘I feel grateful for…’, we could be missing out!

Gratitude comes in different flavours and comes along with other positive emotions too. It might be nice to recognise them all!

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So maybe the next time you and I write in our journals, we could ask ourselves ‘do I feel ‘grateful’ or do I feel’:

Appreciative

Blessed

Content

Enjoyment

Fortunate

Glad

Happy

Honoured

Love

Lucky

Pleased

Priviledged

Proud

Recognised

Thankful

Understood

Validated

Or something different?

 

Thank you for reading!

Image credit: Pixabay

Get more from your breathing exercises

You would be amazed by how many people I see who think they are using deep or relaxed breathing techniques but are actually breathing in a really unhelpful way (until I show them how to do it in a more helpful way, that is)!

There are many variations of breathing exercises and techniques and for the most part, it comes down to personal preference as to which ones you use.

I personally don’t like to count or hold my breath in my breathing exercises, but whatever method you choose, it is helpful to notice where the air is going in your lungs.

When we breathe into the top part of the lungs, we are usually taking in slightly more oxygen than we actually need. We tend to breathe into the top part of the lungs without even knowing it when we are rushing around, talking and busy, and for the most part it doesn’t cause a problem.

However, if we are under stress we may breathe like this for most of the time, even when we are inactive or resting. In its extreme form, over-breathing becomes hyperventilation, which is a key component of anxiety and panic attacks.

If we are aiming for relaxation, the most helpful form of breathing is diaphragmatic or ‘deep belly’ breathing in which the air gets down to the lower part of the lungs. As the lower part of the lungs expand, this flattens out the diaphragm – which is the big sheet of muscle that sits underneath the lungs.

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When breathing from the diaphragm, your belly should move more than your chest.

Here are 3 top tips to get the more out of your breathing exercises and to help promote diaphragmatic (or deep belly) breathing.

 

Tip 1: Take slow steady breaths rather than forced or exaggerated breaths.

If you are taking in a forced, sharp or exaggerated in-breath, the air is probably going into the top part of your chest, rather than down into the lower part of your lungs. This can happen even if you are using the ‘in through the nose and out through the mouth’ style of breathing.

Try it now…

See what I mean?

One way you can try getting the air down to the lower part of your lungs by lying on your back, placing a small cushion or light object onto your tummy and watching it move up and down.

 

Tip 2: Keep an open posture

If you are attempting deep belly breathing, it is helpful to have a relaxed and open posture rather than sitting or lying with crossed arms, legs or a hunched body posture.

Likewise, if you are used to holding your stomach in or wearing clothes that suck you in,  relax those stomach muscles, ditch the Spanx and let it all hang out!

 

Tip 3: Practise when you are feeling calm (particularly if you are new to using breathing exercises)

Breathing exercises are very useful to manage stress but the temptation is to use breathing exercises only in response to stress.

If you are a beginner, the best time to practise is actually when you are already feeling calm. This way, you can get into a relaxed breathing rhythm more easily and naturally and notice how it feels.

Some beginners wait until they feel stressed or anxious, try to practise then feel more stressed that they can’t get their breathing exercise to work!

Relaxed breathing can also help to maintain relaxed state and promote wellbeing, so don’t reserve your breathing exercises purely for times of stress.

 

Want to learn more?

Louise from Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing and Jen from Flourish in Mind are teaming up to deliver a new workshop at Hub 26 (off junction 26 of M62 in West Yorkshire).

At our ‘Workplace Wellbeing that Works!’ workshop you can learn what stress is, how to recognise your stress signature and learn tools to manage stress and promote wellbeing, including breathing exercises.

You can find details and tickets here: Workplace Wellbeing that Works!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Louise & Jen

Get more from your affirmations

I’ll let you into a secret… Cognitive Behavioural Therapists don’t really teach positive affirmations. The reason being that CBT is about finding a balanced alternative to a negative thought and is not so much about ‘thinking positive’ as some people expect.

So the idea of positive affirmations is one that hasn’t been on my radar until relatively recently.

However, the trend for positive affirmations appears to be growing and many people seem to find them helpful.

I used one myself this morning when I needed to have a difficult conversation and it was very helpful to me. If you are wondering, it was: ‘I can approach this conversation with strength and compassion’.

If I did teach positive affirmations, I would probably teach them like this:

 

Take small steps towards increasing positivity in your affirmations

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If you currently believe ‘I am a bad person’ and your positive affirmation is ‘I am a good person’, it is probably a leap too far.

This is how people sometimes apply ‘positive thinking’ and it often doesn’t work, simply because it doesn’t feel believable. You can usually tell if you are trying to trick yourself into believing something you don’t!

Steps might include language like:

‘I am working towards believing I can be a good person’

‘Sometimes I feel like a good person’

‘I am doing the best I can to be a good person’

 

Make them your own

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I saw a client recently who has been using positive affirmations from a list of somebody else’s affirmations. A list of affirmations or suggestions from others may give you some good ideas and help to get you started but it may ultimately be more helpful to word them in a way that is more personal to you.

The more personal you can make your positive affirmation, the more believable it is likely to be.

The more believable it is, the more helpful it is likely to be.

When you make your own, you can also make them situation specific as I did this morning. This may be of more use than something generic.

 

Use evidence to back them up

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In CBT we use evidence for and against thoughts. When you can see that there is evidence against a negative thought, it undermines the believability of the thought.

Likewise, if you can find evidence to support a more helpful thought, it feels more believable.

So, carrying the logic forward, if you have evidence to support your positive affirmation, it is likely to feel more believable to you.

For example, if your affirmation is ‘I am a good person’ and today you did a favour for a friend or helped someone in need, the evidence fits the affirmation.

 

Nod… yes nod!

OK, this one is not mine. This was something I heard on the (awesome) Savvy Psychologist Podcast by Dr. Ellen Hendriksen who cited a very nifty psychological experiment. You can listen to the episode here: https://soundcloud.com/savvy-psychologist/245-3-secrets-to-beat

In a nutshell, participants were asked to test a set of headphones while listening to either positive affirmations or negative statements by either moving their heads up and down or from side to side. Afterwards, their physical performance in an exercise task was measured.

Those who ‘nodded’ to positive affirmations performed the best and those who ‘nodded’ to negative statements performed least well.

The impact of the positive affirmation was boosted by performing a physical action ‘confirming’ the statement, even though the participants were not aware that this was what they were doing!

I highly recommend that you take a listen to the Savvy Psychologist Podcast!

Dr. Hendriksen has an abundance of helpful tips on a range of issues and in my opinion, has wonderful warmth and humour.

 

I would love to hear your comments about positive affirmations. Do you use them? Do they work? Are you already using these tips? Do you have other tips?

Thanks for reading!

Image credit: Pixabay