About two years ago, I gave birth to a baby boy. Shortly after, I found myself experiencing trouble giving birth to writing a book. I began believing in that much talked about "mommy brain." Thankfully, I've always loved design. If you know my books (like The Bounce Back Book) you know they're filled with kinetic images and quirky fonts. Being the positive problem-solver that I am, I began experimenting with other ways to express my creativity—and began designing inspiring posters. I nicknamed them “Inspirational Flashcards"—because their goal was to quickly remind people of important happiness boosting thoughts and tools. Soon I began receiving hundreds of emails from people thanking me for my “Inspirational Flashcards"—explaining how they were truly helping them to battle depressed emotional states—even when it came to dealing with majorly challenging issues like a bipolar disorder or a loved one's death.
I wondered: How was it possible for something as quick as a 10-second reading of a poster to change someone's emotional state?
I discussed it with friends who also write psychologically-oriented books. We all came to the same conclusion. My "Inspirational Flashcards" create what's called a "pattern interrupt"— a psychological tool recommended by practitioners of neuro-linguistic programming to jolt a person out of staying in a repeating negative thought groove of a limiting beliefs—in the same way an old fashioned record player which is stuck on a repeated refrain, needs a jolt to another groove in the record to play a song rightly.
A pattern interrupt works in the world of psychology like this: Let's say an event happens which puts you in a grumpy mood. If you're not careful, your negative thoughts about this one solo circumstance can create a downward spiral, where you quickly go from merely thinking "This one thing sucks," to "My whole day sucks," to "My whole life sucks," to "The world sucks," to "Distant galaxies suck." Basically, without a pattern interrupt, a sad person can get grumpier, and an angry person can get crankier!
There's a famous Albert Einstein quote: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Well, Albert's philosophy is a good explanation for why a pattern interrupt can snap you out of a negative thought loop. A pattern interrupt changes your brain's energy state.
Here's the neuroscientific scoop: MRIs of the brain show that every time a person thinks angry thoughts or imagines worst-case scenarios, they literally send a surge of blood flowing into brain regions associated with depression and anger, thereby refueling depression and anger. Happily, MRI's have also shown that when a person starts to think happy thoughts, they can send a surge of blood flowing into brain regions associated with happiness (the left prefrontal cortex)—thereby literally refueling your positivity.
Basically, a pattern interrupt works like a "thought intervention"—creating a jiggling affect upon a person's tightly held negative beliefs— then jumpstarting a new positive pattern of thought.
Personally, I know how hard it is to find free time in today's uber-busy, espresso-chugging, hyper-active world. So I began wondering what other “pattern interrupts” might also help to create happier brain neurons. Below is my go-to “Instant Happy” Tools.
MY GO-TO “INSTANT HAPPY” TOOLS:
1. Send the Universe Some “Muah!” Gratitude is often the antidote to depression. And that’s a researched fact. A study done by the University of California showed that when people took time each day to think about 5 things which made them happy they increased their overall joy and improved some health issues as well. With this in mind, send 5 “muah’s!” to the universe. Literally. Think up something you’re grateful about then pucker up and blow the universe a kiss! Then do it again! Appreciate. Blow Kiss. Repeat. Appreciate. Blow Kiss. Repeat.
2. See your problems from a headstand position. Many yoga passionistas (including celebrity yoga guru Jennifer Pastiloff ) recommend doing headstands to release stress. MRI studies even back up a headstand’s mood boosting benefit - showing how regular headstands literally improve brain function.
3. Sniff your way to a happier mood. Studies from the University of Miami School of Medicine report that lavender is a major olfactory happiness tool —shown to improve mood, soothe anxiety, and even help to reduce some physical pains. If you don’t have lavender around your home, grab a bottle of Vanilla Extract from your kitchen cabinet. This yummy scent is also considered a powerful aromatherapy happiness booster. Added Bonus: Studies also show the scent of vanilla arouses men—so considered yourself forewarned!
4. Do a shower power meditation. Take a shower and multi-task washing away your stress and anxiety. Concentrate on the feel of the water upon your skin. Envison the power of the shower washing away your negative thoughts! Woosh! Envision fear, regret and anger soaping off you and swirling down the drain.
5. Stare at something yellow. Put on a yellow shirt. Buy some yellow flowers. "Yellow can lift your spirits and self-esteem," says color psychologist Angela Wright.
6. Walk on something green. Being surrounded by nature is good for human nature. Go take a hike - or go for a stroll in the park.
7. Say “ohmmmmm.” Give yourself the gift of five minutes of quiet time, sitting in a comfortable position, humming "ohmmmmmm.” Studies show the sound of this vibrating in your throat relaxes your body—even warming up the skin a bit.
8. Organize your home/office— and clean up messy thoughts in the process. It’s a funny thing how the less clutter you have all around you, the more calm your mind becomes.
9. Give yourself a helpful hand—with some hand reflexology. Massage the chakra points on your palms - right at the base of each thumb. They match up with your adrenal glands, which need a little loving attention when you’re stressed/depressed. Hold one hand in the other, then use the pad of your thumb to gently but firmly massage this zone.
10. Read your way to a happier you. Check out my newest book “Instant Happy” which offers up a collection of “Inspirational Flashcards” that’ll give you quickie 10 second attitude makeovers! Perfect to keep in your handbag, briefcase or la toilette for a quickie mood picker upper. (Sorry for the shameless self promotion—but —I’m truly excited about my new book coming out—and fully believe in its power to create happier, peppier moods!)