Q: Do you have any suggestions for how to stretch out the visualizations so they last longer? I'm finding that my rounds are getting shorter and shorter the longer I practice
A: It is important to keep in mind that quality is more important than length. The primary purpose of the visualization part is to elevate the emotional state. Secondary to that, the memory serves as reminding us of that life wasn't always negative. That there was a time before limbic system impairment, or even moments during, that we felt positive, loving, healthy or uplifted in some way. The future visualizations help to prepare our brains for change. By mentally rehearsing health and wellness, and the positive feelings that go along with it, we are training our brains to view this health and wellness as normal to us. By doing this, we are less likely to experience that as a change when it actually happens, and thereby less likely to trigger a stress response. Our brain sees it as normal because it has already experienced it in our minds.
From my perspective, it is better off to have shorter rounds with stronger positive emotions than to have longer rounds will lots of visual detail but not sustaining the elevated emotional states necessary to reinforce the alternative pathways and neurochemistry. If you still want to lengthen your rounds, focus more on the feelings you are creating and practice deepening and sustaining those feelings. The easiest way to start doing this is to pick memories and visualizations with the most feeling associated with them. Once you've added the details of the visualization and brought in all of your senses and made it as real as possible, turn your attention even more toward the feeling. Savour it and imagine or intend for it to expand. Your mind might naturally wander to other moments that have the same emotion attached to them, and that is okay (especially for seasoned brain retrainers). The more we can flood that feel good neurochemistry through our brains the better off we are. Also, take your time in creating the visualizations, be very present and add as much detail as you can. It doesn't matter if the detail is accurate (for memories) or not. Slowing down and intentionally taking our time while being as present as we can helps us to stay out of auto-pilot and allows us to get more out of the experience.
An alternative option is to allow your rounds to be shorter, and to focus on repeatedly elevating emotions outside of your rounds, as you go about your day. You may no longer be doing an hour of rounds, but as long as you are catching your pops and entertaining positive emotional states, you are still doing what is necessary to rewire your brain. Again, this recommendation is only for seasoned retrainers.
Q: Do you have any tips for quieting the nervous system? How does one increase the ability of the nervous system to be more flexible and calm so we can be better able to focus and catch pops/ants when they arise?
A: Daily meditation and alternate nostril breathing (which are part of the Gupta program) are very useful in helping to calm and regulate the nervous system. Programs such as the Safe & Sound Protocol provide a reset for chronically dysregulated nervous systems. Deb Dana's book, "Polyvagal exercises for safety and connection" is full of regulation exercises and is available through Amazon. Finally, Irene Lyon has a 21 day Nervous System Tune-up program that combines various modalities and is quite effective. Her information can be found here.
Until next time!
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Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com