In this post, we continue our exploration of the cognitive technique of “redesigning your mind” as I describe in Redesign Your Mind.
In my work as, first, a family therapist, and then as a creativity coach, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the cognitive behaviors and mental fitness of clients, sometimes using CBT techniques but more usually employing the “redesign your mind” metaphor and technique of visualizing your mind as a room and making changes there—that is, figuratively (and maybe literally) redesigning and redecorating your mind. This has proven effective for everything from trauma healing to general emotional wellness to improved self-image to increased self-confidence.
Let’s get the following new cognitive habit in place. When you enter the room that is your mind, flip on the switch by the door. This turns on the lights. This gesture can also accomplish a second thing: it can produce instant calmness. Let’s have that light switch double as a calmness switch.
Our anxiety, our agitation, and our racing brain prevent us from living the life that we would like to live. We can’t visit our favorite faraway places if we’re afraid to fly. We can’t live our dream of performing if we’re too anxious to perform. We can’t make our best decisions if our brain is racing and our nerves are jangling. Achieving needed calmness exactly this simply, by flipping a switch, will help you achieve your other mental health goals as well.
Maybe you can’t change your anxious nature or eliminate all the distress and agitation arising from past traumas by engaging in a single mental exercise of this sort. But if you want to change your anxious nature and reduce that agitation, you will have to pick a starting point and this is a wonderful place to start. Whenever you enter your mindroom, turn on the lights—and at the same time, by virtue of having flipped that switch, feel calmer.
Have a conversation with yourself about this idea. Explain to yourself, “It’s odd but I think I get it, that I can become genuinely calmer just by deciding to become calmer.” When something happens to raise your anxiety level today, whether it’s a problem at work, something you encounter in the news, a problem with your current creative project, some family matter, or one of your chronic pestering thoughts, take a deep breath and say, “I’m practicing calmness. Let me flip that calmness switch and deal with this calmly.”
This is a simple, excellent way to manifest your love for yourself and to more powerfully stand behind your own life purpose choices. When we allow ourselves to be pulled around by the nose by our own frayed nerves, boiling blood, and racing brain, we aren’t able to be the person we intend to be. More calmness is a bedrock value that promotes all the other values we want to uphold.
Practice the following:
+ When that hunger builds up in you to eat anything and everything and to throw your diet out the window, say, “I am practicing calmness. Let me flip that calmness switch and deal with this calmly.”
+ When that particular thing that your mate does that always drives you crazy is about to drive you crazy for the millionth time and provoke a fight that you know will lead nowhere, say, “I am practicing calmness. Let me flip that calmness switch and deal with this calmly.”
+ When the novel you’re writing stalls because you don’t know what happens next, instead of badmouthing yourself or abandoning the project say, “I am practicing calmness. Let me flip that calmness switch and deal with this calmly.”
+ When that craving builds up in you to start drinking, do all the things you know to do as part of your recovery program and also say, “I am practicing calmness. Let me flip that calmness switch and deal with this calmly.”
+ When you feel that terrible heaviness and emptiness because life has suddenly lost all of its meaning, when you know that the deep sadness that dogs your heels is about to descend, rather than rushing off manically to do something to forestall that feeling and rather than taking to your bed and pulling the covers up over your head, say, “I am practicing calmness. Let me flip that calmness switch and deal with this calmly.”
Of course, in each of these cases there is more to do than just tell yourself to be calm. Calmness alone will not keep you from overeating, improve your relationship with your mate, allow you to finish your novel, ward off a drinking binge, or keep existential sadness completely at bay. But it is a valuable first step and may even make all the difference.
You can increase the calmness in your life in many different ways. Thinking thoughts that calm you, rather than agitate you, is crucial. Removing stressors from your life will help. A useful relaxation technique or a simple breathing technique will also help. But nothing is simpler than creating a calmness switch that you learn to flip when needed in the direction of calmness. You can associate this idea with our metaphor of “the room that is your mind” by having the switch that flips on the lights in your mindroom double as a calmness switch. Give it a try!
“Maisel’s thorough explanation of his technique will help readers who are looking to push through their mental roadblocks and improve their emotional well-being.”?Publisher’s Weekly. Redesign Your Mind, available for purchase now.