An undeniable truth about the physical universe is that change is constant. From the tiniest known particles on Earth to an estimated 500 billion galaxies in our universe, everything is in motion. All that is will change, momentarily.
The same principle does not automatically apply when it comes to the way we do things in life and how we feel. You can resist changing your ways quite successfully – even at the risk of your own happiness and health – or you can change. It’s your choice.
When you spend time at the beach or swimming pool on a hot day without having taken precautions and end up with a sunburn, chances are it will occur to you to be better prepared next time. Following through on the thought sets in motion a response pattern in your brain – in this case, a positive one.
The human brain is very efficient at remembering everything you learn and how you respond to events in your life. It is also very accommodating when it comes to offering up suggestions for the many decisions you make every day. When you consistently respond a certain way to similar events, your helpful brain remembers, and each time a similar event comes up, it automatically suggests approaching it the same way you always have – according to stored patterns. That’s great when the suggestion is helpful, as in the case of taking precautions on a hot day. It’s not so great when the suggestion is a negative or harmful one, for instance, a stored pattern of unwillingness to forego even a few minutes to take precautions.
“When a stressful situation occurs, the brain scans its memory banks looking for previous stressful experiences until it perceives a match,” explain the authors of the HeartMath book, Transforming Depression. “Then it triggers the same emotional reactions you had the previous time – like anxiety, hurt, resignation, or depression.”
Remember, however, your brain is at your service. You can change a pattern anytime you want. Replacing negative response patterns stored in your brain with positive ones from your heart begins with a willingness to embrace change.
Have a Prior Willingness to Embrace Change
The human heart is remarkably intelligent in its own right, possessing what researchers call a heart brain. When the brain in your head suggests anger or other negative responses to certain events, your heart can intervene.
Research at the Institute of HeartMath has shown that the heart is intricately involved in the emotional responses you choose. Think of an instance in which you “blew your top”: Do you recall, in the instant before that, having a flashing thought that you could respond differently? That’s normal. No doubt there have been many occasions when you have elected to pause before responding angrily, judgmentally, fearfully, etc., to events in your life.
People describe it as, “I had a feeling in my heart” or “my heart told me to” or “my conscience said … .”
In that moment, you can choose with your head or your heart. If you already have a prior willingness to embrace change, you will be better able to choose wisely.
Having a commitment to embrace change simply means being open to the possibility of making a change. It also serves as a prompter for you to engage your heart qualities – love, compassion, appreciation and caring among others – to be the first to take action to whatever comes up in your life.
Benefits of Embracing Change
- Flexibility – You are always prepared to respond to events in any of a number of prudent ways, not necessarily the way you’ve always done it.
- Opportunity – Viewing things from new perspectives is like opening a door for the first time. You get to see the expanding possibilities.
- Conserve energy, experience less stress – Resisting change consumes energy, sometimes a lot, and the pressure to change – from life or self-imposed – can be very stressful.
- Moral compass – Knowing in advance you are prepared to engage your heart in everything you do will help you navigate through uncertainty, complexity, sadness and challenging times.
Change: What to Do
In the Moment: When you have committed to embracing change, you’ve given your heart a lead role in your decision-making. So, if you must make a split-second decision about something, your heart already is engaged and primed to suggest a wise response, perhaps more than one. If you know it’s time to move from your comfort zone – embrace the change.
Fortunately, you don’t always have to make the “big” decisions on the spot. To facilitate change and follow-through, you can practice the following simple coherence-building exercise to increase your commitment and resilience.
Do Heart-Focused Breathing
- Breathe deeply but normally and imagine your breath coming in and going out through your heart area. Continue breathing with ease until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels comfortable.
- Focus your attention on the area around your heart, the area in the center of your chest, placing your hand there if you like.
- As you continue your heart breathing and heart focus, activate a positive feeling such as appreciation, love or care. An easy way to do this is to remember a special place you’ve been to or the love you feel for a close friend, family member or treasured pet.
- Practice Heart-Focused Breathing a few minutes at a time, two or three times a day.
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