By Dr. Stephanie Daniel, DO and Lindsay Briner, MA, PhDc
From all my years of medical practice, one thing I've learned is the incredible power of the mind over the body. I've been more adamant about having my patients pay attention to and make a priority of engaging processes that help with neural rewiring, as I believe, and it's scientifically proven, that it is required to really get well. Immune-boosting physical remedies and anti-viral interventions are really a veiled way to offer some data-backed, sense of control over this crazy situation, with the intention it can provide enough hope and relief to keep you afloat during this uncertain time. There's certainly some efficacy in the science of those remedies, too, but the real power isn't so much in the remedies themselves, as it is in the sense that it can offer relief from the fear when we utilize them.
That being said, my friend Lindsay Briner, who has a doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology and who studied the science of consciousness, wrote the following below. This is the REAL medicine and I invite you all to partake in her offerings, many of which have been scientifically proven to help rewire your brain into a state of wellness and health. In the meantime, stay calm, cozy and breathe. It's going to be ok.
LINDSAY'S 4 PILLARS OF FOUNDATIONAL WELL-BEING: brain and behavior training for sustained inner peace, calm and immunity-boosting:
Below, I am sharing some very basic and very fundamental self-care tips. The trick here is to keep in mind they are truly pillars; therefore, without one, the others will weaken. Do all four every day and you’re set. These are the ABSOLUTE basics and beginning steps.
- Good sleep
- Good nutrition (lots of alkaline foods, no sugar)
- Good hydration with quality water
- Connection to others (FaceTime and Zoom work great right now)
- Time in NATURE!
- Exercise (even a little bit regularly goes a long way for mental and emotional well-being)
2. MENTAL HYGIENE VIA A DAILY PRACTICE
It’s especially effective to do the following (very basic and very easy) exercises every morning, immediately when you wake up, and at night in those last moments right before you go to sleep. The key is regularity and discipline! Though simple, you WILL notice a difference. ***This is how you train your brain toward building positive neural networks*** Even if it seems simple or beginner, you would be surprised how much of a difference it makes once the foundation is set (literally in your neural networks), you can move on to more advanced practices and then those will be even more effective.
Each exercise can be quick and easy, or take as much time as you have / desire:
- Set an intention / say a wish / or make a prayer for yourself, your family and community, and all beings to be free from suffering (or whatever you choose). Feel love in your heart for ALL LIFE.
- List three to five things you’re grateful for. The key here is to break the hedonic habituation of what you take for granted. Be grateful for things you’re not normally grateful for, like shelter, toilet paper (if you’re lucky, haha), your backyard, whatever. The list should be new each time.
- List three people to forgive, even minor incidences. Include yourself if needed. Evoke the emotion of love and forgiveness.
- Set a few realistic goals for yourself during this lockdown and remind yourself of those goals daily by using positive affirmations.
If you don’t have meditation experience, a simple thing to do after your morning daily practice is to just close your eyes and focus on the beat of your heart. Use a positive affirmation if needed, like “I am safe” or “I am loving awareness” or one that resonates with you. Or (ideally), be completely still. Try it for 10 minutes, then 20, then stretch to see how long you can go. Mind-wandering is normal (don’t be hard on yourself), so once you catch yourself thinking about something, bring your focus back to your heart.
If focusing on your heartbeat does not work for you (though my favorite), choose something else like one section of breathing: stomach moving up and down or the sensation of the breath on the inner nostrils. Choose one thing to focus on, stay there, and keep retrieving your attention to that point of focus.
The combination of the daily practice (#2) with daily silence via meditation (#3) is a key to quickly boost mental and emotional well-being, and therefore, immunity. Remember, the immune system has even been referred to as our "floating brain," because the two are so closely connected.
*Challenge yourself* and rise to the occasion of having extra time at home to optimize your health beyond what you ever thought possible.
Need help meditating? There is a myriad of tools like the Muse brain-sensing headband and apps like Calm and HeadSpace. The above is only one very brief example of a meditation style. There are many. Over the last year or so, I have been working with all my clients to help them find their meditation fit. There are many techniques out there and I can help you find which one works best for you.
4. MINDFULNESS THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Make it a practice to notice things in your environment that bring you joy and pleasure. A beautiful tree, art in your house or even the simple mundane relaxing effect of doing dishes. Evoke joy, evoke pleasure. Make the extra effort to truly evoke positive feelings doing mundane things. The result when you intentionally make this a micro-habit throughout the day is you will begin to notice spontaneous ecstatic happiness moments with no effort because you trained your brain to do so. A simple and powerful practice of “Unprovoked Happiness.”
In moments of fear, anxiety or negative thoughts, what is your unique way of shifting your vibe? Don’t have one? Create one that works for you. Be creative and choose only one or two to use repeatedly to create a neural-pathway for faster moment-to-moment state change. This is consciousness hacking! For example, some of my clients say “clear, cancel, delete” repeatedly until the energy shifts. Others make a gesture. Or use an affirming statement like “its ok to be worried right now, and I have done everything within my power to prepare.” The KEY here is this: after the energy shifts, focus on something positive. Again, create a simple technique and use it repeatedly. Then find things to be grateful for. This is a two-step process to help you deal with micro-moments of negativity.
Although I do not want to endorse bypassing, sometimes it’s important to cry, if you need to. Express what you need to express, but reasonably. Allow yourself to have a moment to purge negativity, and then allow that moment to have a completion and move on. If you get stuck, reach out to me or a friend. Stay connected to your support system.
Keep in mind, if you practice these four pillars, these types of moments will be greatly minimized! That's the point.
For people who are more advanced in mindfulness, you know what to do. Be the observer. Be the middle path, pull whatever tools you have out of the woodworks and use them as needed.
Acts of Kindness! What can you do within your household, neighborhood, community, businesses, etc. to help others right now? Even if it’s over the phone or through videos. We are all in this together and we could all use the extra support. And yes, helping others will boost your well-being, too. Scientifically proven ;).
- Pranayamas or breathing exercises
- Singing mantras or uplifting music
- Yoga, lots of online classes are available if you need one
- Dance, Thai chi, Qigong, or other creative movement besides generic exercise
- Salt baths with essential oils to de-stress
- Gardening if you can
- Go outside!
Trust your intuition. Be creative. If you have any questions or want more details for any of the above, please ask.
Be strong, be proactive, stay connected. We got this.