Lesson 11: Change Techniques Part 4

Welcome again, to the fourth of four lessons taking you through the content of my ebook, Change Techniques.

Today we're going to look at the Relaxation Response Practice. This is based on traditional meditation techniques, used for a very practical purpose: To enhance your ability to deal with stress in your mind and body.

The Relaxation Response Practice trains your mind, first of all, to let go of stress and the thoughts and emotions that lead to it. It also shifts your body over to its "maintenance" mode, where the important work of digestion, healing and repair goes on. Dr Herbert Benson has studied its positive physical effects over many years, and his website relaxationresponse.org contains links to his impressive results.

I have adapted his steps slightly and recorded them, so that you can close your eyes and be talked through the ten simple steps until you reach the point where they come automatically. Download the recording and give it a listen.

This is a long-term practice. Research on this kind of technique indicates that after about three months of regular practice, it's possible to detect physical changes in the structure of your brain. (Of course, the changes start immediately, it's just that the current state of the art can't detect them until the 3-month point.) That might sound daunting, but take it one day at a time. On each actual day of practice, all you're doing is spending ten minutes sitting in a comfortable chair.

What you're likely to find is that thoughts and emotions start emerging that were previously buried. If they are unexpected or unpleasant (it can happen), just think of them as the dirty water in a long-unused pipe. It has to come out before the water runs clean. And you're now equipped with tools and techniques to manage those moods and emotions, thoughts and feelings as they arise.

Next Steps

Where to from here? Well, it's long-term practice of these techniques that is going to give you benefits. I suggest that you keep the time you set aside for doing these lessons booked out, and use it to practice daily.

If you want more tools for change, and better ways to manage your personal transition to a new way of being, you'll want to consider my follow-on course: AIM Your Mind. It has more encouraging lessons, more relaxing recordings, and more advice, techniques and training to move you forward to your goals. (And of course there's a special deal for you on AIM Your Mind - just click through from this website and you should see it.)

I hope you've enjoyed the course and the ebook, and benefited from them.

Lesson 10: Change Techniques Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of our tour of the ebook Change Techniques. Today we're going to look at the technique of anchoring.

This is a great way of making positive emotions available to you when you need them. Emotions are triggered off, typically, by memories, which are triggered by some kind of "pattern-match" that your brain does on elements of the situation. You're often responding, not to what is happening, but to what it reminds you of.

Anchoring takes that and makes deliberate, positive use of it. It sets up a deliberate trigger for a positive memory so that you can retrieve it any time you need it.

Read through "A simple mood control technique and how it works" on pages 10 to 11 of the ebook. Then find a place where you won't be disturbed for a quarter of an hour or so and listen to the Therapeutic Relaxation recording, which takes you through the anchoring process. (It's also 15 minutes of deep relaxation, which will do you no end of good.)

Remember to keep practicing the techniques from the earlier emails - paying attention to your change process, and allowing the emotions space to arise and then pass.

Next lesson, I'll take you through another relaxation technique to improve your stress management (and general health) long-term.

Lesson 9: Change Techniques Part 2

Today we continue our journey through the Change Techniques ebook. I'd like to look at a very useful technique today which can help to handle emotions and put you in a positive frame of mind. Now, there's a ton of material around that tells you to keep a positive frame of mind (and often tries to make you feel guilty and bad and wrong if you don't go around in a permanent state of perky cheerfulness), but there's a lot less material that tells you how to actually improve your mood. There are, in fact, lots of techniques, but the ones I include in Change Techniques are some of the best.

Technique number one is the Welcoming Practice. I describe this on page 10 of the ebook under the heading "One simple step towards managing emotions". Again, it's about paying attention, but doing so in a particular way.

When you pay attention to an emotion that's occurring and name it, you're engaging the parts of your brain that watch the other parts of the brain, and the parts that name things. These are the same parts that can come up with plans and modify your moods, emotions and even motivations and desires.

Let's practice right now. Spend a few moments thinking of your "happy place", your pleasant, relaxed and safe location where you're calm and peaceful. Now, in the safety of that positive place, say gently and slowly, "Welcome, fear. Welcome, anger. Welcome, sadness. Welcome, guilt."

Remember, you're not saying that these emotions are good things or that you want more of them in your life. You're just allowing them to be there, recognising them and giving them space. This means that they're not squashed down, not under pressure, and they can just gradually leak away rather than exploding.

Practice this in odd moments. Tack it on to the practice from the last email, just idly wondering about your change and how it will come about. Get into the habit of using it when the emotions spike.

Next lesson, I'll take you through another excellent technique, and give you a free, relaxing audio track to help you practice it.

Lesson 8: Change Techniques Part 1

Today begins a series of four lessons taking you through the ebook Change Techniques. I think it's important not just to give you the ebook, but to focus your attention on specific parts of it and encourage you to put it into practice. I get a lot of material like this, and some of it sits permanently in the "pending" basket. Let's not let that happen with Change Techniques.

Let's focus today on the first section (after the introduction): Why it's hard to change habits, and how you can change them anyway. Start by reading, or re-reading, the section, from page 6 to page 8.

Have you read that? Good. The basic message here is to pay attention to what you're doing. That's essentially what we've been doing as we went through the seven steps of creating a change plan: focussing attention on where you are and where you want to be, and what might stop you from getting there. As the monkey experiment elegantly shows, attention is very powerful. It changes your brain.

Keeping things practical, I want to do an exercise as part of each of these three emails. Today's exercise is very simple. It's beginning to set up the response I talk about at the top of page 7 in the ebook.

Sit somewhere comfortable, and get calm and relaxed. Think about being in a beautiful location - real or imaginary - where you're very relaxed and feel safe and peaceful. Now, without losing that calm, gently consider the thing you want to change, which you've been making your plan about, and slowly ask yourself the three questions:

  • What am I doing that I don't want to do (or not doing that I do want to do)?
  • Why?
  • How can I deal with it better?

You don't have to come up with instant answers, or indeed answers at all. You're simply planting the seeds of those questions in your mind and idly wondering about the answers. You're setting up the guided missile of your mind to aim towards giving you answers (I talk more about this in the AIM Your Mind course).

Do this a few times, whenever you can take a few moments and your mind isn't otherwise occupied - or when it would otherwise be occupied with useless, circling thoughts.

You may find that some emotions are stirred up by this process. Next lesson, I'll take you through a couple of the best techniques for dealing with those.

Lesson 7: Your Commitment

Welcome to the last step in the seven-step personal change planning process: Your commitment.

This is the final video in this course, but it isn't the final lesson. The next few go through the ebook and point out a few things for you to consider and use in your personal growth.

Resources

Here's the worksheet for today's lesson. You can also get all seven worksheets in a single convenient file. Remember to watch the video first!


And here's the link for the Change Techniques ebook in case you've lost it.

Your Commitment

What are you prepared to do in order to make this change?

Having answered the other questions, you should now have a good grasp of the benefits and also the costs of making the change.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Your Feedback

I want to know your experiences of this course - positive and otherwise - so that I can improve it by doing more of what works and replacing what doesn't. Your feedback is essential to that process.

I'd really appreciate it if you would just send me an email and let me know how it was for you. The more specific you can be, the better. I'm looking in particular for answers to these questions:

  1. What's your greatest need or desire in terms of a resource to help you with personal change?
  2. How hard has it been to find that? Did this course help?
  3. What is the one most valuable thing I could do to help you with your personal change goals?
  4. What has been most helpful in the course so far, and what needs improvement?

Thanks!

Lesson 6: Your Barriers

In Step 6 of our 7-part course on planning your life change, we look at the question: what is hindering you from making the change?

Since you haven’t made the change already, something must have been stopping you. Was it lack of knowledge? Lack of motivation? Lack of resources? Lack of opportunity? Something present in your life that was actively preventing the change?

Identify as many obstacles as possible and figure out how you’re going to deal with them.

Write them down on the worksheet after you watch the video.

(In the video, I mention my colleague Aaron McLoughlin's Fascination Principle. You'll find this in his book Rapid Inspired Change if you want to follow it up.)

If part of the problem is that you have internal resistance to the change, you need to confront that. You don’t need to understand why the resistance is occurring in order to overcome it, but you do need to acknowledge it and do some subconscious work in order to dissipate it. There's more on how to do this in the course AIM Your Mind. (Don't forget the special deal I offer on AIM Your Mind for Seven Steps subscribers.)

Lesson 5: Your Tools

As an adult human being, you solve problems all the time. You have problem-solving skills, you have creativity. You have skills and experience and knowledge and friends and, if you’re reading this, internet access, which means you have access to more knowledge and more knowledgeable people than anyone ever had in any previous generation. You have economic resources (perhaps not as many as you'd like, but you do have some).

How are you going to use all that?

Here's the worksheet for you to write down your resources and opportunities, after you watch the video.
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Above and Beyond

I've mentioned the AIM Your Mind course before. Self-hypnosis, which AIM Your Mind teaches, is a tremendous tool and resource for making all kinds of change easier (or even possible at all). Take a look and see if it might be something to add to your toolbox. There's a special deal for you as a Seven Steps subscriber.

Lesson 4: Your Leverage

You have positive habits that you use every day to keep your life functioning. You have a routine, and you can tie your desired changes to that routine so that you’re regularly reminded. You also, probably, have life successes from the past that you can draw on for inspiration and ideas. In this step, we identify those things and consider how they can contribute to your goal.

Here's the worksheet for you to make notes on these things after you watch the video.

Lesson 3: Your Prize

Welcome back to the third of these seven steps in creating your own personal development plan: the Prize.

Here's the worksheet for you to write down the benefits of your planned change (after you watch the video).

The Prize

The prize is the major benefit of the change you are planning.

This is what you will keep in front of you to motivate you through the change. You wouldn’t be setting out to change if your current situation was fine and the new situation offered nothing better.

Identify the benefit, and write it up somewhere where you’ll see it. Add pictures if possible. Carry around a card in your pocket. Pull it out and look at it. Recite it as a mantra to yourself. In other words, pay attention to it and keep it in the forefront of your awareness.

More Resources

In the video, I mention my article on seven benefits of exercise I can believe in - take a look to see the creative process of finding benefits in unexpected places. Even if your change is completely unrelated to exercise, you can still get ideas from this article.

And in figuring out emotional benefits, Sharon Livingston's 37 Emotional Benefits tool is excellent. It's the outcome of many thousands of hours of research into what motivates people. Use it together with today's worksheet to figure out what will best motivate you to make your change.

Above and Beyond

I've mentioned before that my follow-on course, AIM Your Mind, builds on the concept of your mind as a guided missile heading for its target. That's very relevant to this step. Change Your Mind teaches the technique of self-hypnosis, which is a way of narrowing and focussing your attention very powerfully on your goal, temporarily shutting out distractions, and giving your mind a very vivid and clear instruction to pursue that goal. The results of this simple technique impressed me so much that I decided to train as a hypnotherapist! If you have difficulty staying laser-focussed on your prize, definitely give AIM Your Mind a look. (There's a discount offer for 7 Steps subscribers.)

Lesson 2: Your Compass

What is your current situation? Where are you now?

Here's the worksheet for you to write down your current situation, after you watch the video.

Don’t skip over this step. A hard look at your current situation is an important component of changing it. If you don’t know where you are, you’re not ready to move. Take your time and figure it out thoroughly.