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To change your mood and stress level, change your mind

Has your vacation come and gone? Does working 9 to 5 cramp your summer style? No worries. Sitting by the pool isn't the only way to chill in the summer. These easy well-being exercises are linked to ordinary workday activities. They're simple to implement, and so effective in improving your mood, redirecting your thoughts and reducing your stress that you'll be feeling better in no time and be on your way to a productive workday.

Freeze frame

Trigger: When you drink your coffee or tea in the morning

Tool: As you take your first sip, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, freeze the frame (make a mental or audible camera click sound), and think, "Life is good." As you take your first sip of any drink, morning through evening, create the habit of stopping to take a mental snapshot. Feel the liquid going down your throat. Notice, breathe, absorb and savor the tastes as well as the moment. Imprint on your mind the happiness habit of noting to yourself, "Ah, this is a good moment."

Purpose: This tool helps train your mind to focus on a moment of simple pleasure. It identifies a happy moment and holds it in your consciousness, creating an imprint of positive experience. It cultivates gratitude, a quality highly correlated with peacefulness. Finally, it creates a "pause" that momentarily stops the physical and emotional spiral of the day.

'Outstanding'

Trigger: When a colleague asks, "How are you?"

Tool: Most people expect the standard answer of "Fine". Instead, try answering with a "Fantastic," "Outstanding," "Superb" or "Awesome." It doesn't matter if these superlatives don't actually match your current mood. Focus on simple basics in your life that you can truly appreciate — like good health, a sunny day, safe children, living in a non-war-torn country. Answer the question with a descriptive stronger than "Fine" and notice how you affect the entire mood of the office.

Purpose: When you find small ways to be grateful, you train your mind to focus on life as a daily gift and you spread that awareness to others. Using these turbo-charged "happy" words creates an opening in your life for more optimism and gratitude.

Glad game

Trigger: Whenever you find yourself complaining at work

Tool: Think of three things that you're actually glad about at work and say it out loud. (You love your co-workers, you like your corner office, you're glad you landed a new account). If that feels like a stretch, then say something that you're glad you're not, such as "I'm not getting a pink slip today," "I don't have a hangover" or "I'm not having a performance review today." Focus your attention on things that you're glad about in your situation, even if there are plenty of things that aren't so great. Feel the gladness; look for humor; let yourself smile.

Purpose: When we focus on the positive (even if something negative exists), we learn to redirect our thoughts and stop wallowing in misery. Gratitude and perspective are direct routes to inner peace.

Take 5

Trigger: Before you check your e-mails at work

Tool: Breathe in through your nose to the count of five. Feel the air as it comes through your nose and expands into your lungs. Hold your breath to the count of five. Exhale through your mouth to the count of at least five (longer is even better). Upon exhaling, purse your lips as if blowing through a straw. Repeat several times.

Purpose: Breath work is universally considered grounding and relaxing. Deep exhalations stimulate calming mechanisms in your body. When you redirect your mind to an awareness of your breath, you create a moment of calm in which inner peace can bloom.

Stop, drop and roll

Trigger: When stopped at a red light, on your commute

Tool: "Stop," "drop" down into your heart and "roll" out a little goodwill to your fellow travelers. Look at the people in other cars in front of you, behind you, passing around you, and recognize that each one of them is just like you: They want happiness and they want to be free from stress. To each person you focus on say or think something like:

• May you know happiness.

• May you be free from stress.

• Peace be with you.

• I hope you have a nice day.

Purpose: This tool "quenches the fire" of road rage by getting you out of your own little world. Commuting for many people can be the most stressful time in their days. Actively using this exercise gives you another way to be in the car. Opening your heart with compassion, you experience a deeper sense of inner peace.

Shakedown

Trigger: When coming home at the end of the workday, before you enter the sanctuary of home

Tool: Before you walk through the door, spend a moment "shaking down" your body, as if you are shaking off water. Shake your right leg and foot, then your left leg and foot. Shake your right arm and hand; shake your left arm and hand. Gently shake your head and let your shoulders relax. Finish with a little twist of your torso to shake off any remaining tension. Finally, take a deep breath and heave a long hearty sigh (a prolonged exhalation).

Purpose: Relaxing your limbs sends a ripple effect of calm through your body. When you clear or shake off energy from a hectic outing, you restore yourself to a place of calm so that you can be present as you transition to home.

Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in southern New Hampshire and a self-help author. Her most recent book is "Shortcuts to Inner Peace: 70 Simple Paths to Everyday Serenity" (Berkley Books). For more resources, visit her website at www. AshleyDavisBush.com.

To change your mood and stress level, change your mind 07/30/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 30, 2011 4:31am]
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