As a new decade starts, are you setting goals for 2020 and the next ten years? Have you looked within and discovered what you value the most in life? The start of the new year is a great opportunity for reflection, to connect with your true self and give yourself permission to thrive.
You have probably noticed that there is a lot of pressure in the media at the beginning of the year to be the best version of yourself: to be better, healthier, wealthier, stronger and so on. These messages tend to focus on external appearances and, at times, on someone else’s approval or validation, for example, to find a partner or to secure a job. This type of conditioning also implies that we are not currently the best version of ourselves, that we are imperfect the way we are and that we need to fix what’s wrong and aim higher.
You can choose to challenge this way of thinking by acknowledging you are already enough exactly as you are! So instead of thinking about a new, you let’s focus on being YOU! Self-acceptance is a great gift you can give yourself and that can carry you through the year ahead. We are ultimately all work in progress, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us, but rather that there is scope for growth.
A New Approach: Be You!
Here at BeSophro we firmly believe in the value of stepping back, taking a moment of pause to look at things from a different perspective, connecting with your true self, experiencing life in the present moment and observing what goes on in your life without judgement. Your feelings and thoughts come and go, and you can decide not to label them. With reflection comes the realisation of your true essence, of exploring your consciousness and connecting with a state of harmony.
Of course, we can always strive to improve ourselves, but without feeling pressurised to do it from others or the media, and according to what we feel is right and resonates with us and our values.
In 2020 we can start cultivating self-love, a sense of acceptance that allows us to be calmer and choose our priorities for the year instead of trying to be the best at everything, which then can become a source of stress. Instead, you can choose to focus on the journey and the transformational process that comes with it.
The Power of the Pause
Taking regular breaks, ideally every day, to practise some deep breathing and to quieten the mind, is very powerful. A moment of pause allows you to take in what’s going on, settle your thoughts and let new ideas emerge. Insight and the ability to understand something deeply has transformational power. This is something that is inherent to the practice of Sophrology, which brings our consciousness to reach a state of harmony.
One of the worst enemies to happiness is the feeling of being under the pressure from different demands in life, what other people think about us, our current work and lifestyle. It’s important to reflect on what stress is and how we can change the perception of stress in daily life. To do that, taking a moment of pause allows you to consider how you react to situations and whether they need worrying about or not.
Remember that not all stress is bad for you, some stress is actually positive and motivates you to move forward and be excited about what’s ahead. The way we perceive stress and how to frame stress correctly allows us to acknowledge our feelings and react to events with the adequate emotional response.
You can use Sophrology to reframe your beliefs about stress and transform your worries and the physiological consequences of stress into visualising and anticipating success, connection, enthusiasm and self-love instead of what can potentially be disruptive for consciousness.
Think about what stress means to you, how it manifests in your body, what causes it and what you can do to manage it.
You may be surprised to know that there is such a thing as positive stress (eustress): it can motivate you to take action. Positive stress is that sense of excitement you get when you are anticipating something good happening. Yes, with positive stress you experience a rush of adrenaline but also of feel-good hormones. There is a popular TED Talk called “Make Stress Your Friend” which is very enlightening in this context.
In her TED Talk presentation psychologist Kelly McGonigal talks about the biology of courage: by doing something that requires us to be brave, we build our resilience and our trust in our abilities to face life’s challenges.
The talk mentions a study about stress that investigated whether stress is always harmful. We may misinterpret physical signs such as increased heart rate as signalling danger or an incoming disease, but the findings from the study looked at how, when we prepare for action, for example, an important event, our body goes through physiological changes accordingly. What we think about our stress matters, so changing our thinking patterns is the key to harness the energising effects of positive stress. Our body rises to the challenge and we can embrace it.
Our inner resilience has always been there – we only need to find a way to tap into it and access it freely. Distractions and other people’s opinions or even low self-esteem may stop us from being resilient, but some simple exercises can help.
How Sophrology Can Help You
Sophrology can be a very useful tool to support you in your daily life, from setting your intentions to following up with action. If you are feeling stuck or lack motivation, a few exercises can help to shift the energy.
We are the creators of our own lives and we can use the start of the year to really reconnect with our true values and align our actions with what we truly believe in.
Look back at all that you have achieved in the past year and possibly the past ten years. What are your hopes for the future? Did you make sure you took in those successes you experienced, celebrated them and reminded yourself of your achievements?
An important lesson is letting go; it is about being aware of the past and the future but focusing on the present moment without judgement. You can also use positive visualisation for the year ahead and refine your awareness of what you want, not solely from a rational perspective but also from an emotional one, listening to your body’s innate wisdom and intuition. By cultivating positivity, you increase your energy and ability to achieve what you dream of.
We suggest a couple of exercises that could help you tap into your inner wisdom by working on your breathing and using positive visualisations. Once you reach a relaxed state, you can ask some questions to your deeper self: where do I want to be in the future? What shall I aim for? How can I be happy and healthy? The answers will come from within.
The Bag Exercise
You start the exercise standing up in front of a chair by doing a Body Scan: with your eyes closed, allow the muscles to relax, starting from the head down to the feet, then an activation stretch, inhaling and bringing the arms above the head, then breathing out and releasing the arms. You can find these guided exercises in the book and in the BeSophro online course.
With your fingertips touching your belly button, inhale and exhale deeply from the abdomen three times to release all tension. Focus on a sense of confidence to block negative thoughts.
Let’s imagine there’s a target in front of us from which a bag is hanging. We are holding the bag open with the right hand, and we are putting in the bag anything that is holding us back with the left hand. We are mindfully connecting with our thoughts and emotions.
We can put as many things in the bag as we want, all the negativity that is stopping us from thriving. When we are ready, we can imagine that we can close the bag and assume a steady posture. Inhaling project the right arm forward to crush the bag three times and then the left arm three times, and then both arms together to crush the bag, finally throwing it to the floor.
Stomp on the imaginary bag to reduce it to dust as quickly as you can – this is very energising and will likely make you smile and feel more positive. Reach down to collect the dust, stand up sending the dust to the universe as we exhale, asking for it to be transformed.
Take a seat placing your hands on top of each other over your heart noticing sensations. We may want to invite gratitude or self-love into our life, using our breath to synchronise each intention. We can also use a visualisation to invite positivity for the year ahead. Then, slowly come back to your usual state of awareness.
This is a very simple yet advanced exercise that can be very useful to shift any negative energy: start by inhaling deeply from the abdomen and, as you breathe out, hum, feeling the vibration in your body. Place your hands on your tummy and feel the vibrations there as you hum, then move your hands to another part of the body that you think needs healing (for example, a sore neck) and mentally visualise that your humming reaches that body part. You can find more information on this exercise in my book.
The founder of Sophrology, Professor Caycedo, said that sound is like body percussion, acting like a tuning fork. Sound can be very therapeutic and act as a mood enhancer, and it’s worth trying especially when we feel overwhelmed. It is a profoundly transformative tool that works on a cellular level: research studies found that humming can positively affect blood pressure and cognitive functions. Humming requires mastering the technique correctly for maximum benefits so if you need any help with your practice you can speak to a Sophrologist to guide you through it.
You can find more exercises to help you along your journey in our online course.
Over To You!
As a suggestion, why not start cultivating the self with more love and acceptance in 2020.
Our vision for BeSophro in 2020 is to spread the practice of Sophrology to a wider audience, developing more online opportunities to access it.
What are you aiming for in 2020? We can all start by making small positive changes and work on ourselves to affect others and the world around us positively.
If you’d like to share your goals and your journey with others, please join the conversation on social media and connect with BeSophro on Instagram.