Happiness and Joy

yca5goukzca3bsgiscayv8qu6calrd5htcawxvwywcai5tzp5ca638prkcao03wp6carurn13caaqs8k6cary9t9ucauctcd4ca4c4m66cauv9dx2caccxy8mcaxrtxrhca89nbddcamjimp0cajpt00aPeople have been concerned about happiness for a millennium. Two thousand years ago Seneca observed that his forefathers lived as well as they were living during his time. This was in spite of the fact that his forefathers found shelter in the ground, used their own hands to obtain and dress their meat and did not know the pride of owning and wearing gold and fine gems. He commented that it was what was in the mind that made a person rich: no one could be considered poor who had enough, or rich if they wanted more than they have.

Seneca’s observation is consistent with the Chinese saying from long ago that a person who is content is always happy. People can become so interested in acquiring things that they recklessly pursue fame and fortune. Living life in this manner limits people to the demands of fame and the restrictions of wealth. Their life energy is spent in pursuit of fame largely for the purpose of obtaining wealth. Ironically if you actually obtain great wealth it also opens the door to the possibility of great loss, including robbery, burglary, or even murder as others attempt to take what you have. On the other hand, the person who is content with what he has can spend his life energy in more truly satisfying endeavors. People who are content are said to be rich in the quality of their life, which is likely to include tranquility, peace and spiritual nourishment.

Today happiness researchers continue to find validation for these ancient concepts. Modern happiness researchers define happiness as a state of well-being which depends less on our circumstances and more on how we respond to them. While national affluence and a sense of well-being correlate, there is a stronger link between a secure democracy and well-being. In fact, the capacity for personal choice is a greater predictor of happiness than a country’s relative wealth. While indigent people concerned about losing the most essential necessities of life endure a sense of hopelessness, wealth alone does not guarantee a sense of purpose and life satisfaction.

People need enough money to provide the basic necessities of life on a continuing basis. However, having more than enough does not really boost our sense of well-being. This is because when we have the basics other needs come to the forefront—things such as a need for a sense of belonging, or a feeling that we are making a difference by our existence. The first serving of food tastes better than the second helping. In the same way once humans have basic rights, shelter, adequate food, meaningful activity in their lives and enriching friendships our level of happiness is surprisingly unaffected by more money. There is only a slight tendency for those who make lots of money to be more satisfied with what they have. True satisfaction is not really about getting what you want but wanting what you have. Larger incomes also don’t influence how satisfied we are with our spouse, children, friendships or even ourselves, but all of these relationships are important in determining our sense of well-being, i.e., our happiness.

Traits of happy people

Researchers have found that there are four inner traits that predispose positive attitudes and happiness. These traits are:

  • Self-esteem – happy people respect their value as a human being. When things get tough people with a firm sense of self-worth keep going.
  • Personal Control – happy people feel like they have control over what happens to them. They feel like they can control their destiny.
  • Optimism – happy people are filled with hope and expect to succeed when they try something new. They see the proverbial glass of life as half full, not half empty.
  • Extraversion – happy people tend to be outgoing and sociable.

Even in old age extraverted individuals tend to be cheerful and full of the joie de vivre, the joy for living. People who like themselves are confident that other people will like them too. They have many friends and they engage in rewarding social activities. More fulfilling social interactions result in their experiencing more affection and greater social support. This is very important because social support is the foundation behind their sense of well-being and positive outlook on life.

Becoming a happier person

Just because you are not born an extrovert with high self-esteem and an optimistic outlook does not mean that you cannot make changes in that direction. Pretend you are self-confident, pretend to be optimistic, try to be more outgoing with others. Research has shown that while telling people to act or talk positively sounds like you are asking them to be phony, in reality when people follow through and practice these traits amazing things happen. The phoniness gradually diminishes and the new behaviors and accompanying attitudes begin to fit, like a favorite comfortable pair of old jeans.

If you doubt this strategy force yourself to put on a big smile. Now frown, tighten your jaw and try to look angry. Try both again and this time pay close attention to how you feel. Can you tell a difference? Research shows that if you smile on the outside you will feel better on the inside.

The same goes for your interactions with other people. Smile. Act like you like someone and you may just find out that you do! And, as a bonus, you may also find out that you are beginning to like yourself better, that you feel more confident and that you are becoming more comfortable with other people. And these are the changes that can help you feel greater happiness in your life and more optimism for the future.

Optimists Are Healthier

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Over the past two decades research from around the world has produced a steady stream of scientific evidence that psychological traits, especially optimism can contribute to good health. Optimism does this by:

  • Reducing that sense of helplessness that stifles constructive action.
  • Giving a person a reason to stick to health regimens and seek medical advice
  • Reducing the number of bad events a person experiences because optimists are more likely to take steps to stop bad events once they begin
  • Fostering social support, which is important because close friendships reduce the risk for disease, particularly the recurrence of chronic disorders

How is this possible? States of mind, such as hope, can affect the rest of the body. When a person is depressed, catecholamines, one type of neurotransmitter, become depleted. When catecholamines get depleted, the brain’s internal morphine( i.e., chemicals called endorphins) increase. When the level of endorphins increases the immune system detects this and turns itself down. This reduction in the immune system is temporary in grieving people. On the other hand, a pessimistic outlook on tends to lower immune activity independent of physical health problem and transient emotional states. Unlike temporary states such as sadness during a bereavement, or depression in the course of a divorce, or a bout of illness, pessimism may be able to impair your health over the course of your entire life span.

Traditional views do not acknowledge a major determinant of health, namely our own thoughts. The reality is that we have much more control than we probably think we do. For example:

  • How we think, especially about our health, can change our health.
  • Optimists catch fewer contagious disease than pessimists
  • Optimists are more motivated to maintain better health habits than pessimists
  • The immune system of an optimistic individual works better than the immune system of a pessimistic individual
  • There is even evidence that optimists live longer than pessimists.

One of the most intriguing studies in this area has been going on for decades. In the mid-1930’s the William T. Grant Foundation decided to study healthy men throughout the course of their adult lives. The investigators were interested in studying exceptionally gifted people to learn more about what determines success and good health. Subjects were selected from five Harvard freshman classes. Investigators selected men who were physically fit and intellectually and socially gifted. This group of men cooperated fully with this demanding study. Participants have received physical checkups every five years, were interviewed periodically and had to fill out endless questionnaires. Their diligence has provided a treasure of information about what makes a person healthy and successful.

As time passed and the original investigators aged they decided to ask a younger man, George Vaillant, a brilliant young researcher, to assume responsibility for the continuation of this longitudinal study. George Vaillant’s first important finding from the study was that wealth at age twenty does not guarantee either success or good health. Instead he found a high level of failure and poor health among the men in the study including failed marriages, bankruptcies, premature heart attacks, alcoholism, and suicide. Indeed these men experienced tragedy at almost the same rate as men born at the same time in the the poorest areas of the inner city.

The original research challenge had been to try to determine factors predictive of success and good health. So what was going on? If wealth did not guarantee good health and success what did? Vaillant began to focus in on how men in the study dealt with challenging events in their lives. Information that had been collected from the men indicated that even while in college some of them handled bad events with what may be described as “mature defenses.” They used humor, altruism, future-mindedness and the ability to delay gratification to meet the challenges thrown at them. Interestingly some of the men never used these strategies. Instead they used “immature defenses” such as denial, and projection, i.e., blaming others for their problems. By the time they were sixty years old none of the men who used mature defenses in their early twenties was chronically ill. On the other hand over one-third of the men without mature defenses at age twenty were in poor health by the time they were sixty.

About the time the men in the study were entering middle-age, around age forty-five, a study involving 99 randomly selected men from the ongoing study was conducted. The men’s identities and state of health were kept from a second set of investigators that were given essays the men wrote as they returned from service in the World War II in 1945-1946. The essays were compiled into an explanatory-style portrait of each man. These explanatory-style summaries were then returned to the original investigators so they could determine what had happened to these men and whether the second investigators’ designation of individuals as having an optimistic or pessimistic outlook on life made a difference. What was discovered is that the health of the men at age sixty was strongly related to optimism at age twenty-five. The pessimistic men came down with diseases of middle-age earlier than the optimistic men and by age forty-five the difference in health was large. In fact optimism stood out as a primary determinant of health beginning at age forty-five and continuing for the next twenty years. In the next decade researchers will be able to learn if optimism predicts a longer life in addition to predicting a healthier one. While we all cannot be born wealthy, we can modify our outlook on life—especially if taking a more optimistic view leads to better health.

Importance of Control

0ca3p4uqxcaezm5sbcamyhjjwca2mnuldcazu6gl3ca3ksr6jcagx1argcaeurabeca3ig8azcarzlqq0ca8f92m3cayx7cp6calutl4zcargwg02ca42s0zbcabyfabicav3f9nfcaxm4ai8caskz8neEllen Langer is one of the pioneers in the study of perceived control. Some of her most important findings come from field experiments with collaborator Judith Rodin which were conducted in nursing homes for the elderly. These studies pointed out the significant physical and mental gains that can be achieved in elderly people in institutional settings if they are given a sense that they are at least partially in control of their own lives by being able to choose some of their daily activities. Research has shown that perceived control is crucial not only for one’s psychological well-being but also for one’s physical health. Furthermore there is evidence that believing that one has control may be even more important than actually being able to make the overt responses to cause the desired outcome.

Langer’s theory suggests that conditions that allow people in situations governed by chance to behave as if skills count, benefit from an illusion of control. Skill-related behaviors such as: making choices, thinking about the task and possible strategies to be use, exerting effort while working on the task, learning about the materials and responses to be made, and competing with other people to evaluate ability, reduce a sense of helplessness. This perception gives individuals in a chance situation, in which they have no objective influence on outcome, an illusion of control. In this situation people became motivated to master their environment and to avoid the negative consequences of feeling like they are not in control. They perceive the simultaneous occurrence of chance and skill elements as clouding the difference between the two; and that their behavior is not “irrational” rather it is viewed as a possible opportunity for gain. People tend to make judgments about the causes of events and see themselves as having the ability to determine what will happen if an outcome is positive, even as they ignore the objective reality that they are overestimating the probability of success.

In short, people need to believe that they have some control over what happens to them. While there may be millions of losers in every big lottery, there are also winners. And there really are exceptional people, like the young mountain climber who amputated his own arm to free himself when a boulder imprisoned his arm in an accident. He climbed down a steep incline and walked six miles to safety when he surely would have died otherwise. There are also people like Lance Armstrong who overcame cancer and became the first person to ever win the grueling Tour de France bicycle race six times. There really are heroes. We need to believe that we too can beat the odds and overcome enormous obstacles that would crush lesser mortals. That mountain climber and Lance Armstrong believed they could control events when others might not do so.

According to Langer and her colleagues there are two kinds of control:

Primary control involves changing a situation. Owning our behavior and becoming more resilient requires that we realize that we are the authors of our lives. Instead of always trying to change everyone else we should ask what is it that I can do to change the situation? It is not just the elderly in nursing homes who benefit from feeling like they have some control of their daily activities, it is us all. Research supports the importance of personal control as a major factor in our physical and emotional well-being. A sense of control fosters optimism and optimism can be protective. Primary control means changing the situation.

Secondary control involves how we view a situation. Even in situations that we cannot directly change we can determine how we think about it. Even when faced with major life challenges like serious illness, death of a loved one, divorce, loss of employment and natural disasters a lot of what happens to us emotionally and physically is determined by how we look at the situation. Secondary control means changing the way we view the situation and how we feel about it.

Type A Behavior and Anger

imagesType A people are described as competitive, goal-oriented, productive, ambitious, leaders in the making who are in a hurry. They are competent and determined to be successful—and frequently are. The problem is that they are also likely to be hostile and angry.

The specific aspects of a Type A individual that continue to be related to heart disease are explosive reactions, competitiveness, impatience, irritability and hostility. Lumped together these traits equal anger.

It is the tendency to be angry and hostile that results in the Type A paradox: the anger that drove you to triumph over all obstacles to reach professional heights is the same behavior that puts you at risk for serious illness and death. Closer examination suggests that the crux of the matter is motivation. Type As seek excellence to prove their worth. Type B people, on the other hand, can also achieve personal success but do so because the process is enjoyable to them. Type Bs feel secure inside and do not need hostility or competition to succeed.

While discussions about adrenaline and noradrenaline—two of the stress hormones associated with the sympathetic nervous system (SNS); its opposite, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is less frequently discussed. This is unfortunate since the parasympathetic nervous system is vital for survival. When activated the parasympathetic nervous system released a compound called acetylcholine to any tissues served. Once inside of a cell acetylcholine has the ability to neutralize adrenaline. Most organs involved in the fight or flight response receive input from both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The PNS can put the brakes on the fight or flight physiological changes. It cools us down and calms us. It puts the brakes on anger.

In a series of studies carried out in Japan it was discovered that Type A men, especially those with high hostility levels, have weaker parasympathetic nervous systems than men with low hostility levels. An effective PNS can help counter the effects of the SNS which results in the heart working less hard and lowering the risk for developing heart disease.

There is also research that indicates that the immune system may be weaker in hostile people. The immune system is thought to play an important role in helping keep us cancer free, especially in the action of “natural killer cells” which can kill tumor cells that form in the body. A study involving low and high hostility scoring med students indicated a reduction in the natural killer cells in the blood of high hostility students during high-stress exam periods.

In summary, hostile Type A people are wired differently. Their SNS is activated at the slightest provocation while nonhostile people’s SNS show relatively small responses to even strong stimuli. The end result is that hostile people spend more time under the influence of an aroused nervous system which can set the stage for the development of heart disease because of repeated exposure to elevated cardiac demands, increased mobilization of cholesterol into the blood, and increased clumping of platelets while the immune system functions are decreased. This difference in exposure may account for the increased death rates seen in aggressive Type A individuals.

Heart disease

If your immediate impulse when faced with having to wait in traffic or in a long line at the grocery checkout, or dealing with a recalcitrant computer is to start blaming people, and getting angry you are slowly killing yourself. Your anger has turned into hostility and you are at increased risk from death from many causes.

Research indicates that high hostility levels in older men are strongly related to the development of heart disease. Hostility appears to be a greater risk factor than high cholesterol levels, smoking, and being overweight. Furthermore the older men in this study with the highest levels of hostility were at the greatest risk of developing heart disease. This increase in risk appeared to be independent of insulin levels, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, triglyceride levels and blood pressure. In other words, being highly hostile appeared to be more closely related to the development of heart disease than the more commonly thought of risk factors and the higher the hostility level the greater the likelihood of developing heart disease.

Constant chronic feelings of anger, hostility and aggression raise the risk of developing arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease as much as five times the normal rate. Suppressing anger is not a major contributor to heart disease; over-experiencing and over-expressing anger is the villain.

Hypertension

Research has indicated that anger causes high blood pressure in hostile people in much the way salt increases blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure.

Anger is a poison for hostile people. In a research study that examined the effect of harassment on men trying to perform a mental test, ONLY highly hostile men showed increases in blood pressure and blood flow to the muscles. Men who scored low on the hostility scale did not demonstrate these physiological changes. The high hostility group also reported much higher levels of anger and irritation afterward than the less hostile men. In a second study the high hostility men were shown to also have a larger increase in stress hormones than the less hostile men. This closer connection between anger and physiological hyperactivity can be one of the explanations why hostile people have more health problems. Hostile people need to control their anger if they want to avoid increasing their risk for health problems.

Social costs of anger

It is no fun being around someone who is constantly angry. Hostile, angry people are not happy. Not only do hostilely angry people hurt their spouses but they also hurt their children. While they may not resort to physical violence, verbal abuse is common and extremely detrimental to the children. If nothing else anger can reduce the intimacy in personal relationships as your partner and other family members become more guarded in their interactions with you.

Hostile individuals also report more stress in the interpersonal aspects of work. They are less satisfied with their jobs and have a negative view of work relationships. In addition, an aggressive interpersonal style sabotages the goodwill of subordinates and lowers the probability of work goals being met. Colleagues begin to avoid the hostile employee resulting in the chronically angry individual feeling isolated.

Many hostile people blame everyone else for their social problems. This is unfortunate because lack of a social support system is one of the paths a hostile person can take to serious disease. Angry people frequently have cynical attitudes toward others and are unable to recognize or utilize support when it is available; especially if the offers for help are judged inferior because of their overly demanding expectations. When genuine attempts to help are shunned or ridiculed it only worsens the situation, pushing others further and further away.

Finally, angry people tend to drink, smoke and eat more than their less angry counterparts. Without a social network of people to dampen these tendencies the probability of serious health consequences seems inevitable.

Anger Can Be Poison

angerAnger is an emotion that is experienced by all people everywhere. Anger usually results from an emotional hurt. It is typically experienced as an unpleasant feeling that occurs when we feel injured, mistreated, or are opposed in long held views, or are faced with obstacles to attaining personal goals. Anger varies in its frequency, intensity, and duration. People also vary in how easily they get angry, their anger threshold, as well as with their comfort level with the emotion. Some people are always getting angry while others don’t even recognize that they feel angry. While some experts say that the average adult gets angry about once a day and annoyed or peeved around three times a day, those who work with people with anger management issues suggest that getting angry 15 times a day is average. In any case, anger is a common human emotional which we probably experience more often than we would like to admit.

It should be noted that anger can be constructive or destructive. When well managed, anger or annoyance has few detrimental health or interpersonal consequences; when mismanaged anger can be deadly. There is a difference in feeling angry and expressing your anger. To feel anger is to be human. The feeling contains information that can be of value. Expressing your anger inappropriately or prolonging the experience of anger can be dangerous. Not only can out of control anger damage personal relationships, it can lose you your job, land you in jail, damage your health or even kill you. For example, recent research suggests that men who have poor anger management skills are more likely to suffer a heart attack before age 55 than their more mild-mannered peers. A separate study involving 774 older white men (average age 60) indicated that high hostility levels were more predictive of developing coronary heart disease than risk factors like high cholesterol, alcohol intake, cigarette smoking. Older men with the highest levels of hostility were at the greatest risk for developing coronary heart disease independent of the effects of BMI (body mass index), waist-to-hip ratio, fasting blood-sugar levels, triglcyride levels, and blood pressure.

Anger can alienate friends, co-workers and family members. Your expressed anger elicits anger in others as a defense. Hostile, aggressive anger not only increases the risk for an early death but also the risk for social isolation, which is in itself a major risk factor for serious illness and death.

Anger is composed of the thoughts that trigger the emotion, the bodily arousal a person experiences, and whatever behaviors are exhibited, which are often culturally determined. The goal of anger is to protect or further our self-interests, or those of our loved ones, or uphold principles and causes we hold sacred. Instinctively anger often results in the desire to defend ourselves and strike back at its cause, often aggressively. Behind all anger is some form of pain, physical or emotional. It can start with not feeling well or feeling rejected, feeling threatened, or enduring a sense of loss. The type of pain does not matter; the point is that it is unpleasant and it makes you want to end the suffering. It is when these unpleasant feelings are associated with trigger thoughts that anger erupts. Trigger thoughts are assumptions, evaluations or your interpretation of situations that make you feel like you are being victimized or someone is deliberately trying to hurt you.

Many of our trigger thoughts have their roots in childhood. Often a person will overreact to a current situation because they learned earlier in life to be very angry when they experienced hurt, neglect or abuse. As an adult the person will have difficulty with situations and conflicts that threaten them with feeling unworthy, unloved or unsafe. Any time a situation “triggers” these old feelings of betrayal, the anger expressed will not only be about the current irritant but also about remnants of the pain felt before. When one of these old triggers is unleashed the degree of anger expressed is often excessive for the immediate aggravation. In addition if parental role models use anger to manipulate and control family members the children may learn destructive ways to manage anger. The children learn not only to be extremely angry because of the mistreatment they receive, but also how to express their anger in an inappropriately aggressive manner.

Causes of Anger

UCAI8IG1PCA5K1NPQCACQ0IK0CAZQU1F5CAIZLF9KCAE53YXACALQ1JCSCAJEKBN0CAVWX7SQCAN3354ZCAHCZMQACA2V6BH3CAY3JED6CACFPM5PCAYU6USZCAKD9H1ACAZG80XFCA1KG3GGCA89GHT4 Two common causes of anger are a feeling of encroachment in areas we hold precious, and feelings of abandonment when we lose things we hold dear. If another employee gets the promotion that we feel we should have been ours, we can be very angry at that person for “stealing” our opportunity, or at our boss for being stupid and passing us over. If we are threatened by the loss of a close friend or spouse we can feel very angry at their “betrayal.” This second type of anger may contain holdovers from childhood when adults let us down, leaving us feeling abandoned. When we experience a current situation that suggests we are being unfairly abandoned it reinforces and justifies our sense of outrage.

As adults our feelings of protectiveness extend to family members or beliefs that we cherish. Sometimes this can flow into areas where a cool head would be more appropriate. If our child is passed over for an award or is not given enough time at bat we may feel angry because our loved one has been “mistreated.”

Thus anger can be considered:

  • A response you learned early in life to help cope with pain and fear
  • A temporary way to overcome feelings of lack of control or helplessness
  • A habit you do not know how to break.

Anger can co-exist with other emotions

In spite of its frequent occurrence, anger may be considered a secondhand emotion. It is preceded by feelings such as fear or pain. In fact some experts describe anger as an afflictive emotion because of its association with pain, suffering, or injury. Moreover, some of the physiological responses to anger and fear are the same, even though we acknowledge different feelings. It is our psychological interpretation of the experience of an epinephrine rush that gives the experience meaning. Is that sinking feeling in your stomach, the sweat on your brow or the nervous palpitations of your heart a sign of fear or anger? Ask yourself: Does the present situation threaten you with personal or professional embarrassment? Do you feel like someone is taking advantage of you or preventing you from doing something you want or need to do? Is there something about this situation that evokes one of your anger triggers? If so then you are probably becoming angry in addition to whatever else you may be feeling.

Some anger is an alternative or substitute emotion

Anger can temporarily protect you from having to deal with threats suggesting personal weakness. Getting angry helps you hide from others that you find a situation frightening or that you feel vulnerable. An angry person feels powerful. However, angry outbursts only work temporarily. Anger does not resolve the problems that made you feel fearful or vulnerable in the first place. The challenge is to learn how to use your anger productively.

Physiology of anger

Our bodies let us know when we are angry. For example, when we encounter one of our emotional triggers we begin to feel tense. Hormones called catecholamines are released which cause us to experience a burst of energy. This initial burst of energy lasts several minutes. Next hormones, such as adrenaline and nonadrenaline are released, which can keep us in heightened aroused for hours or even days. This is why a rather minor irritation can cause you to explode in anger if it is preceded by an earlier upsetting episode. In any case, once we begin to experience these physiological changes our face flushes, our heart rate accelerates, blood pressure rises, respirations increase.

Although some major elements are the same in the face of fear and anger our interpretation is different. We say we are “hot and bothered” when angry and “cold and clammy” when afraid. This is because while our heart rate may go up in both instances, skin temperature changes are different. Our skin temperature increases when we are mad which is why we feel “hot” or that we have “lost our cool.” In contrast, when we are afraid our skin conductance drops and we feel cold.

Polarizing effect of anger on attention, memory

When a person is attending to something they are interested in, such as watching a play or listening to instructions explaining how to do something they really want to do, their heart rate drops. Even babies show a heart rate drop when attending to something of interest to them. If a person is trying to concentrate on a problem and must block out distractions their heart rate rises. Thus if you are trying to block out your feelings about the guy that cut you off and nearly caused a wreck as you were driving to work, your heart rate will be elevated and you will have greater difficulty concentrating than if you were attending from a more neutral perspective.

In fact, epinephrine and norepinephrine fuel many emotions. These hormones help the brain learn and enhance memory, concentration and performance up to a point. However, when the body becomes flooded with epinephrine you become too excited and concentration and performance decline. If you become too aroused you are like a deer frozen in the headlights of an approaching car. This is why you cannot remember the details of a really explosive argument, although the person you were arguing with and who was not as angry has a clear memory of what transpired.

Motivational effect of anger

The physiological experience of anger energize us for vigorous action. Anger mobilizes actions to strike out at the threat. It gives us the determination to go forward.

Anger:

· Gives a sense of power and control

· May motivate a person to change a personal weakness

· Defends a person against feelings of guilt, fear, grief, hurt, pain, sadness, and helplessness

· Can help you get what you want, at least temporarily

· Can point out social wrongs and motivates you to work to change them

· Gives a sense of power

· Minimizes a sense of inadequacy temporarily

· Gives you the resolve to leave an abusive situation

· Allows frustration to be vented and tension released

· Makes you appear superior, or powerful

· Makes you feel justified in your beliefs

· Helps you see that you are not getting what you want

· Gets you attention from other people

· Can be used to coerce people to do what you want them to do.

Learning To Relax

Attention Focus and Relaxation Page

Harry L. Mills, Ph.D.

There is growing evidence that one of the most important factors in development and treatment of emotional disorders is attention. In anxiety a bias develops and patients attend to certain events more than others. Or they turn attention inward rather than outward toward the world in which they live.

Patients tend to think that their attention is the slave of events in the world around them. Events control attention. In our daily routine we are bombarded with sights and sounds. When we try to rest we often find wave after wave of thoughts and worries constantly intruding. Wells and his colleagues (Wells, 2001) developed a simple exercise that teaches the patient how much control they can exert over attention. In LTC this exercise can be done outside the building at least initially. Participants are asked to focus on a fixed visual point. Then the therapist identifies a series (3 to 9) of sounds and asks the patient to focus on those sounds. Then the patient is told to switch to each sound on their own. This procedure is less effective with those with hearing impairment. With such patients I use switching attention to visual cues. The important aspect is to show the patient that the focus of attention is under volition and need not be a slave to events. Also they prove to themselves that they can choose to extract attention from internal events to the external world.

Many patients simply try to suppress a thought or image. That leads to frustration. I usually try another simple experiment. I tell them no matter what they do they are NOT to think of an elephant. They usually smile. And I say the lesson is that you can only replace a thought with another thought or an image with another image. And the only way to get out of their head is to focus on some specific sound or visual cue in the world out there. We are meant to live in the world and not in our heads.

Meditation is a special form of attending. Everyone has meditated but may not know they have done so. However, when the word is used one may think of saffron robes and bearded gentlemen in contorted positions. If so that is too bad. Meditation is simply putting one’s mind at ease and using special methods of attention. It is a skill and is tied to no particular religious point of view. And it is a skill that can be learned.

While many still viewed meditation as an activity for kooks, Dr. Hebert Benson, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School and Deaconess Hospital in Boston, decided to study it systematically. As a result of his research, meditation has enjoyed widespread acceptance in the west. School teachers meditate, CEOs meditate, and people concerned about anxiety are making meditation a part of their lives.

Mindfulness is a word that means focusing attention, in a non-judgmental and accepting way, on what we are doing right now, not on what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. One way to learn more about mindfulness is to focus on the experience of eating a favorite food. Many people use an orange cut into wedges for this exercise. Others people prefer to use a mango or even candy or raisins. To introduce mindfulness have your patient pick a favorite food and then try this exercise:

· Take a few deep breaths and relax the body.

· Scan the body and release tensions.

· Let go of the past and the future, and bring attention to the present moment.

· Let the attitude be open and receptive.

· Take a moment to appreciate where the orange (mango, or raisin) came from; look carefully at its color, texture, shape.

· Notice the aroma.

· See, as if for the first time, how it is formed.

· Eat one section of orange, piece of mango, candy or raisin at a time, very slowly, as if one had never tasted this food before.

· How does one chew? On one side of the mouth, the other, or both? How many times do one chew before swallowing? Above all do not hurry.

· Whenever one notice any distraction from the moment-to-moment experience of eating, stop, take a deep breath, and then continue.

· Allow feelings of enjoyment to arise as one experience the pleasure of eating mindfully.

This exercise shows what the experience of eating is like when one attends completely to what one are doing. That is a better introduction to mindfulness than talking about it for hours. Once your patient has tried this or a similar exercise select with them some activities during the next week during which they can try to attend completely to what they are doing at the time they are doing it. It can be as simple as sitting. Or it can be while eating. Thoughts will intrude and the patient should be led to expect that. But then return attention to what they are doing.

Thomas Marra (2005) suggests a mnemonic to teach mindfulness: ONE MIND

· One thing in the moment

· Focus on the now

· Pay attention to the environment

· Pay attention the immediate moment

· Increase the senses of touch, taste, vision and hearing

· Take a non-judgmental stance

· Describe in words that are descriptive

There are two posters that I put up in the patients room:

DO ONE THING AT A TIME

ALWAYS BE WHERE YOU ARE

Americans like to stay busy and judge everything by the numbers. If we are not running from event to event we feel guilty. Meditation requires pausing for at least a brief time each day. It involves sitting still and focusing attention on what happens when sitting still.

One of the best introductions to meditation to your patients is with meditative breathing since breathing properly is a key to relaxing. Have the patient try these steps:

  • Put on comfortable loose clothing. Sit down on the floor in a comfortable position. Or, sit in a chair with good back support.
  • Scan the body for tension. Notice any tension just imagine it is draining away and being replaced by relaxation.
  • Just begin to breathe through the nostrils in a relaxed way. Breathe from the abdomen. Some people imagine a balloon just under their belly button that inflates and then deflates.
  • As one inhale count one. Exhale slowly. Then on the next inhale count two. County silently up to ten.
  • If one find distracting thoughts just return to the count.
  • Keep the focus on breathing, attending to each in breath for its full duration and each out breath for its full duration, as if one were riding the waves of oner own breathing.
  • Every time one notice that one’s mind has wandered off the breath, notice what it was that took one away and then gently bring attention back to the belly and the feeling of the breath coming in and out.
  • If the mind wanders away from the breath a thousand times, then the “job” is simply to bring it back to the breath every time, no matter what it becomes preoccupied with.
  • Become aware of thoughts and feelings at these moments, just observing them without judging them.
  • After one have completed the count to ten one can add a word like ONE or CALM or AMEN as one exhales.

Dr. Benson, has made a study of the counterbalancing mechanisms of the body’s stress reaction. He discovered that while the fight-or-flight response is part of the hard wired response to stress, there is an opposite response, he called the relaxation response. The relaxation response causes the body to calm itself. Metabolism decreases, heart rate decreases, blood pressure decreases, breathing rate decreases and muscle tension decreases. Dr. Benson has discovered that the relaxation response can be elicited by a number of techniques including:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Body scan exercise
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Repetitive exercise
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Imagery
  • Repetitive prayer

Those who elicit the relaxation response regularly, such as on a daily basis, report these kinds of changes:

  • Improved sleep
  • Decrease in stress-related symptoms
  • Decrease in anxiety
  • Increase in concentration and awareness
  • Greater self-acceptance
  • Enhanced performance and efficiency.
  • Freedom from compulsive worrying, self- criticism, negative thoughts

There are the basic steps in learning to elicit the relaxation response:

· A mental focusing device, such as attending to your breathing, or repeating a word, phrase, prayer, sound, to help shift the mind from everyday worries. He suggest use of the word ‘one’ or ‘calm’ as a device.

· Gently direct the mind back to relaxation exercise when you getting caught up in a train of thought. Keep a passive attitude toward distractions.

Possible instructions for patients to elicit the relaxation response include:

Step 1: Pick a focus word, phrase, image, or prayer.

Step 2: Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

Step 3: Close your eyes.

Step 4: Relax your muscles.

Step 5: Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, repeat your focus word or phrase as you exhale.

Step 6: Do not worry about how well you are doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, “Oh well,” and gently return to the repetition.

Step 7: Continue for ten to twenty minutes.

Deep breathing is the body’s natural way to relax. We seem to know how to breathe as children but as we grow up, we forget. We tend to breathe in a very shallow way in the upper part of the chest. Try these instructions with your patients:

  • Lie down on a bed or on the floor. Bend your knees and relax your toes. Keep your spine straight. If need be put a small pillow under your lower back for support.
  • Scan your body for tension. Imaging the tension just draining away.
  • Place on hand on your abdomen and one on your chest.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply. Notice which hand moves the most. For many people it is the hand on the chest.
  • Continue breathing deeply. Concentrate on moving the hand on your abdomen more than the hand on your chest.
  • Continue this for 5 or 10 minutes. This is a way to learn abdominal breathing and to learn to breathe yourself into relaxation.

Before getting into mindfulness and deeper methods you may want to lay a foundation by introducing relaxation in its more basic forms as with this excellent starter script (1992, Lusk):

  • Begin by closing your eyes…and releasing the air in your lungs.
  • Take in a full, deep breath through your nose, allowing your lungs to fill up completely, letting the air go all the way in…and then sighing it out through your open mouth. Release all of the tiredness, tension, and negativity with your breath.
  • Take in another deep breath…And sigh it out. Take your time…Breathing in…and out.
  • Pause for 20 seconds
  • Now let you breath return to normal.
  • In a minute or so, I will begin to count from 1 to 10. As I count up, you will slowly begin tensing all the muscles throughout your body: your arms and legs, your torso and back, your shoulders and face. At the count of 5, your body will be half way to being tense all over.
  • By the count of 10, you will feel tension and tightness throughout your entire body.
  • Then I will count backwards from 10 to 1. As I count down, you will slowly release the tension in your body. By the count of 5, you will be half way to being completely relaxed. At the count of 1, your body will be completely relaxed. Then you will take in a big breath and then sigh it out.
  • Now sense how your body feels as it presses firmly against the floor. Become aware of how your body is feeling right now—your legs, back, arms, and head. You are becoming acutely aware of how you are feeling in your physical body right now. Physically…how your body feels to you. Just become aware.
  • Let’s begin. 1…add a little tension…2…add some more…3…4…5…you are half way there…6…7…8…9…and 10.
  • You are all the way there now. Feel the tension. Know it and experience it completely so that you will be able to recognize muscular tension and tightness later on.
  • 9…relax a little bit…8…a little bit more…7…6…5…and you are half way there…4…3…2…and 1.
  • Dissolve and release all of the muscular tensi9on and tiredness. Let go completely…Experience the feeling of being completely relaxed and calm…Soak it in…Learn to recognize the feeling of relaxation.
  • If you still feel some muscular tension, you will find that you can relax even more if your mind gives your body permission to relax. Let those spots relax now by mentally giving yourself permission to relax…It’s OK to relax…Just let it go.
  • Take in a long, deep breath and sigh it out, letting the air rush out through your open mouth. Keep the air out of your body until you are no longer comfortable, then take in another deep breath and sigh it out completely…Notice that you can relax more and more, each time you exhale.
  • Pause for 20 seconds
  • Now let your breath return to normal.
  • Notice that you feel as if you are sinking into the floor. Let the floor support and hold you, safely and securely.
  • Your body feels as if it is being supported entirely by the floor. Every time you breathe out, feel more and more relaxed, calm, and serene.
  • Now draw your attention to your mind…Notice what thoughts are drifting through your mind right now…Let your mind and thoughts become silent and still so that you can begin to center in and concentrate more.
  • If your mind begins to wander, gently bring your attention back to the sound of my voice or to the motion of your breathing.
  • Now notice how your emotional self is feeling right now. What kind of mood are you in? Try not to judge your mood, just recognize and accept what you are naturally experiencing at this moment.
  • Each time you exhale, notice that you feel more and more settled and are feeling a sense of harmony and balance occurring within your body, mind, mood, and spirit. Feel this sense of balance within your body…mind…and emotions.
  • Start to picture the room you are in…the walls, the ceiling, the floor.
  • Describe different aspects of the room.
  • When you can picture the room completely, open your eyes and stretch.

A great way to start with most patients (other than those with COPD) is with this basic breathing exercise (1992, Lusk):

  • Close your eyes…Focus your mind on your breath…Just follow the air as it goes in…and as it goes out.
  • Feel it as it comes in…and as it goes out…If your mind begins to wander, just bring it back to your breath.
  • Feel your stomach rise…your ribs expand…and your collar-bone rise…Breathe in naturally and slowly.
  • On your next exhalation, release all the air from your lungs without straining…Let it all go…Let it all out…Prepare your lungs to receive fresh oxygen.
  • Now take in a full, deep breath and let the air go to the bottom of your lungs…Feel your stomach rise…your chest expand, and the collar-bone area fill.
  • Now empty your lungs from top to bottom…Let all the air out…Compress your stomach to squeeze out all the stale air and carbon dioxide. Squeeze out every bit of air…Let it all go.
  • Take in another deep breath…As you breathe in, your diaphragm expands and massages all the internal organs in the abdominal area…aiding your digestion.
  • Breathe out…Relax…Feel the knots in your stomach untie…Let go.
  • Breathe in…Your diaphragm is stimulating your vagus nerve, slowing down the beating of your heart…relaxing you.
  • Breathe out…Let it all go…relax…relax more and more…Breeathing heals you…calms you…soothes you.
  • Breathe in again, fully and completely. Oxygen is entering your blood stream, nourishing all your organs and cells…protecting you.
  • Breathe out…Release all the poisons and toxins with your breath. Your breath is cleansing you…healing you.
  • Breathe in.
  • Now imagine exhaling confusion…and inhaling clarity.
  • Imagine exhaling darkness…and inhaling light.
  • Imagine exhaling hatred…and inhaling love.
  • Exhaling anxiety… and inhaling peace.
  • Exhaling selfishness…and inhaling generosity.
  • Exhaling guild…and inhaling forgiveness.
  • Exhaling weakness…and inhaling courage.
  • Breathe in through your nose and sigh out through your mouth. Let the air stay out of your lungs as long as it is comfortable, and then take another breath.
  • Let your breath return to its normal and natural pace. Continue to breathe in slowly, smoothly, and deeply…Your breathing is steady, easy, silent.
  • Each time you exhale…allow yourself to feel peaceful…calm…and completely relaxed…If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath.

· Stretch and open your eyes, feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and alert.

Another good way to start relaxation training is with a body scan like this (1992, Lusk):

  • Begin taking deep breaths. With every inhalation, fill your body with positive energy…With every exhalation, feel all of the negative energy being released from your body.
  • Continue to breathe deeply, focusing on bringing in the positive energy as you breathe in, and letting go of the negative energy as your breath is released.
  • Now focus your attention on your body, all the different parts of your body…You will begin to do a “body check” that will bring you in touch with your physical body and create and awareness of your body parts.
  • First focus on your feet and legs…Breathe in positive energy to your feel and legs, and breathe out negative thoughts and energy.
  • Now focus on your thighs and hips…breathe in positive energy to your thighs and hips, and breathe out negative thoughts and energy.
  • Move up your body and focus on your buttocks and abdomen. Breathe in positive energy to your buttocks and abdomen, and breathing out negative thoughts and energy.
  • Now bring your focus to your upper and lower arms and hands. Breathe in positive energy to your neck, head, and hair… Breathe out negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Focus on your face, and particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth…Breathe in positive energy to these areas and breathe out negative thoughts and feelings.
  • How do you feel about your feet, calves, and upper legs? Do they feel heavy and sluggish?…tense?…or maybe light and relaxed?…Get in touch with the feelings you have towards your fet, calves, and upper legs.
  • Move your concentration up to your hips and buttocks, and again, get in touch with the feelings you have for your buttocks and hips. Do they feel heavy and fat?…perhaps strong and smooth?
  • Draw your attention on up to you abdominal area…then to your chest…and upper back…Now to your shoulders, arms, neck, and head…How do these areas of your body feel to you?
  • Once you have taken enough time to do a body check and have thought about how you are feeling, begin again. But this time repeat silently after me a positive affirmation for each body part and for each area of your body. If your mind begins to wander or if you deny or doubt the affirmation, acknowledge your discomfort to yourself and then bring you attention back to the affirmation and repeat it silently and as confidently as you can.
  • As you continue to practice positive self-talk through affirmations, you will begin to see a shift in your mindset and begin to create positive, healthy body affirmations that become a regular part of your psyche.
  • My feet are a wonderful support for my body…I take care of them and respond to their needs.
  • Repeat this affirmation silently to yourself to give participants time to say the affirmation silently to themselves. Repeat this for each affirmation.
  • My calves, knees, and thighs are strong and beautiful and give me sound support for the rest of my body… They are just right the way they are…My legs take me where I want to go…I move with coordination, grace and ease…My legs are just right for who I am.
  • My hips and buttocks are smooth and strong…I take care of them and respond to their needs…I take care of them and respond to their needs…I take care of my hips and buttocks by exercising and eating well…My hips and buttocks are just right for me right now.
  • My back is healthy, strong yet flexible…My spine give me all the support I need, and it feels good, strong, and healthy.
  • My stomach and chest are just right for who I am…My stomach and chest are a positive expression of my health and well-being…My digestive system digests my food and nourishes my body…My heart is strong and beats in perfect rhythm.
  • My shoulders, arms, and hands suit my needs just the way they are…My arms are strong…My hands express my talents to their fullest…They allow me to touch others in my special and unique way…They allow me to be touched by others in a positive way.
  • My neck support my head and my head is perfectly balanced upon neck and shoulders…My hair is healthy and strong…My eyes see clearly and sparkle with my inner beauty…My nose allows me to breathe deeply and energizes my body with each breath…My ears hear clearly and allow me to appreciate the sounds of life…My mind is sharp and my thoughts are positive.
  • My attitudes and perceptions about myself are positive…I honor my body and make choices that are healthy and respectful of myself…Every day in every way, I am better and better…I continue to create a health centered approach to living that nurtures every part of me.
  • Continue to bathe yourself with positive affirmations, personalizing each thought to your own needs.
  • Pause for 1 minute
  • Now bring your attention back to your whole body…Let y9ur attention sweep up from your feet to your torso and shoulders and down your arms, over to your hips and up your back to your neck, head, and face. Breathe fully and deeply once again. On the inhalation, bring positive energies into your body. On the exhalation, feel the positive energies spreading throughout your entire being.
  • Let your breath return to normal. Silently count from 5 to 1, stretch and then open your eyes. 5…4…3…2…1…Stretch and then open your eyes.

Autogenic Training is a form of relaxation developed in Europe and which uses phrases the patient says to themselves related to sensations like heaviness as part of the script (1992, Lusk):

  • Prepare yourself to relax now. Prepare yourself to experience calm…to feel quiet…to know peace. Find a comfortable position…Begin to sink down…and be supported by your surrounding environment.
  • Close your eyes now…and focus on breathing naturally. Inhale…and fill yourself with life-giving air. Exhale…and relax…allowing your body to sink…breathing in…and breathing out.
  • Begin to withdraw your thoughts from your surroundings…and to center your focus inward on the peace…and the stillness…within you. Prepare yourself with an attitude of passive attention…alert but quiet…aware…yet at peace.
  • And…making nothing happen…you let of the tension of controlling anything…you watch the relaxation you feel spread to all parts of your being.
  • And you breathe in…easily…and breathe out naturally. Part of the rhythm…of all life.
  • And you focus on your breathing. As you breathe in…you say to yourself…”I am.” As you breathe out…you say to yourself…”relaxed.”
  • I am…relaxed.
  • I am…relaxed.
  • I am…relaxed.
  • I am…calm.
  • I am…comfortable.
  • I am…relaxed.
  • I am…relaxing…into the supports around me. My mind is quiet. My whole body is relaxed.
  • I am…at peace.
  • I notice…my quiet.
  • I notice…my peace.
  • I notice…my calm.
  • I think about my right hand…I allow my right hand to become heavy with my breathing…My right hand is becoming heavy…My right hand is heavy…and relaxed.
  • I allow the heaviness of my hand to spread up my arm…I think about my right arm…I allow my right arm to become heavy with my breathing. My right arm is becoming heavy…My right arm is heavy…and relaxed. My right hand and arm are heavy and relaxed.
  • I think about my left hand…I allow my left hand to become heavy with my breathing…My left hand is becoming heavy…My left hand is heavy…and relaxed.
  • I allow the heaviness of my hand to spread up my left arm…I think about my left arm…I allow my left arm to become heavy with my breathing…My left arm is becoming heavy…My left arm is heavy and relaxed.
  • My left hand and arm are heavy and relaxed. I think about both of my hands and arms…I allow both hands and arms to become relaxed…and heavy…with my breathing.
  • My hands and arms are heavy. My hands and arms are heavy and relaxed. I continue to breathe deeply…rhythmically.
  • I allow the heaviness of my hands and arms…to spread down my back to my right leg and foot…I feel the weight of my body…and my back. My hands are warm and heavy…My back is relaxed. My legs and feet are becoming heavy.
  • Pause
  • I think about my right foot…I allow my right foot to become heavy with my breathing…My right foot is becoming heavy…My right foot is heavy…and relaxed.
  • I allow the heaviness to spread to my leg…I think about my right leg…I allow my right leg to become heavy with my breathing…My right leg is becoming heavy…My right leg is heavy…and relaxed.
  • My right foot and leg are heavy and relaxed.
  • I allow the heaviness of my foot and leg…to spread across my hips…and down my left leg to my left foot.
  • I think about my left foot…I allow my left foot to become heavy with my breathing…My left foot is heavy…and relaxed.
  • I allow this heaviness to spread to my leg…I think about my left leg…I allow my left leg to become heavy with my breathing…My left leg is becoming heavy…My left leg is heavy…and relaxed.
  • I think about my feet and legs…I allow both feet and legs to become relaxed and heavy…My feet and my legs are becoming heavy…My feet and my legs are heavy…and relaxed.
  • I imagine tiny weights attached to my arms and legs…making my arms and legs heavy…gently pulling my arms and legs down…My arms and legs are sinking…relaxing.
  • Both of my legs are heavy. Both of my arms are heavy.
  • My hands and my arms are heavy…and relaxed. My feet and my legs are heavy…and relaxed.
  • My hands and arms…feet and legs…are heavy…and relaxed.
  • I am comfortable.
  • I am…quiet.
  • I am…at ease.
  • My body is in tune with my mind…and connected by my breathing.
  • I am…heavy.
  • I am…relaxed.
  • I am…quiet.
  • I feel the energy flowing…through my arms to my hands…through my legs to me feet.
  • I am alive.
  • I am refreshed.
  • I am relaxed.
  • I feel a freshness of spirit.
  • Pause
  • Continue with a visualization exercise or say the following:
  • Now prepare to open your eyes. Take a deep breath…and open your eyes…slowly…while you remain fully relaxed.
  • Now gently stretch…but remain relaxed. Begin preparing yourself to return to your world…relaxed…and refreshed.
  • Your eyes are open…You are aware of your surroundings…but you remain relaxed…and calm. You prepare to move on…with you as you move on with your day.

Introducing a visualization like the following can deepen relaxation (1992, Lusk) :

  • Take in a long, deep breath…Hold it…Now slowly and completely exhale. Allow your jaw and shoulders to drop as you exhale.
  • Visualize the following, allowing your mind to roam freely in its own way.
  • Imagine you are on vacation. No cares, no worries. You feel completely free from your usual daily pressures and hassles.
  • You are walking along the water’s edge on a quiet, secluded, warm ocean beach…You are dressed comfortably and are either alone or with someone close to you, whichever you prefer. As you stroll along the water’s edge, you feel the coolness of the damp sand under your feet…and hear the gentle rolling of the waves…Under your arm you carry a rolled up towel.
  • You turn away from the water and look at the soft, white warm sand. You pick a spot where you can be alone and still…You put down your towel, and using it as a pillow, you lie down on the soft, pleasantly warm sand.
  • You feel the warmth of the and on your back, your legs, and your arms.
  • You notice the deep blue of the late morning sky. It is completely clear, except for one wispy cloud near the horizon over the water.
  • You feel the gentle warmth of the sand beneath…You feel utterly relaxed and still. For the next several minutes, continue to experience this place, allowing your mind to wander as it wishes. Enjoy this very pleasant sensation of stillness, warmth, and quiet.
  • Pause for 2 minutes
  • And now imagine getting up…gathering up your towel…walking back to the water’s edge. Again, you experience the cool, damp, sand underfoot…You continue on along the beach, feeling alert, refreshed, peaceful, and renewed. You give yourself credit for this positive experience.
  • Now bring your attention back to the present. Draw a deep breath. Open your eyes.

Or try these elements (1992, Lusk):

  • Make yourself as comfortable as possible. Close your eyes and become aware of which parts of your body are feeling tense and which parts are relaxed.
  • Now take a few deep breaths, taking the air in through your nose, holding it momentarily…and then slowly exhaling through your nose…And with each exhale, you will find yourself relaxing more and more deeply, more and more completely.
  • Take the air in and let the air out. Allowing yourself to relax…relax…relax.
  • In a few moments, I am going to describe a very vivid scene in which you will picture yourself walking along a beach. I want you to imagine this scene as though you ar there experiencing not only the sights, but the sounds, smells, tastes, and touches.
  • It is a bright summer day. It is late in the day. You decide to go for a walk along the beach. The sun is radiating warmth and comfort as it shine boldly. The sky is crystal clear without a cloud in sight. The grains of sand beneath your feet shine from the sunlight and warm the soles of your feet. The sound of the waves beating against the shore echoes in the air.
  • You feel the warm, light breeze brush against your face as you walk onward. Far off in the distance, you can hear the cries of sea gulls…You watch them glide through the sky, swoop down into the sea, and then fly off once again.
  • As you walk further along the shore, you decide to rest. You sit down on a mound of pure white sand and gaze out at the sea, staring intently at the rhythmic, methodical motion of the waves rolling into the shore.
  • Each wave breaks against the coast…rises slowly upward along the each, leaving an aura of white foam, and then slowly retreats back out to sea, only to be replaced by another wave that crashes against the shore…works its way up the beach…then slowly retreats back out to sea.
  • With each motion of the wave as it glides in and as it glides out, you find yourself feeling more and more relaxed, more and more calm…more and more serene.
  • The waves are gliding in…and the waves are gliding out…You feel more and more calm…Continue to watch the waves glide in…and out.
  • Now, as you stare off into the distance, you see that the sun is beginning to sink into the horizon. The sun is sinking down and you feel more and more relaxed as you see its movement going down…down…down.
  • The sky is turning brilliant colors of red…orange…yellow…green…blue…and purple…As the sun sets, sinking down…down…down…into the horizon, you feel very relaxed and soothed. You watch the sun as it sinks down…down…down.
  • The beating of the waves, the smell and taste of the sea, the salt, the cries of the gulls, the warmth against your body—all these sights, sounds, and smells leave you feeling very soothed, very calm, very serene.
  • Relax…relax…relax.
  • Pause
  • In a few moments, I will count from one to three. When I reach the count of three, your eyes will open and you will feel completely refreshed and totally relaxed.
  • 1…2…3.