It’s apparently part of our human wiring to have a strong focus on what isn’t working, and comparatively a rather weak focus on what is going well. However, it turns out that we can change this through the practice of noticing and savoring the good stuff—those moments when needs are met. Using this practice, we become aware of the wonderful feelings that arise at those moments, and this creates a delightful loop of noticing and enjoying them more often. Even more wonderful, drinking in these good moments feeds the heart, mind, and spirit by filling up our often-depleted energy reserves.
Here are some practices you can try that support growing an awareness of needs met.
a) Take a moment right now and, going through your day so far, see if you can notice one lovely shining moment. This could be a smile someone had for you, a moment of understanding, or something in nature that caught your eye. Something simple.
i. What was it?
ii. Explore the positive sensations that go with this moment. See where you feel them. How did it feel or how does it feel right now?
iii. How would you describe these feelings to someone else?
1. Ask yourself…
a) How is it now, remembering something lovely that happened earlier today?
b) Thinking about your experience, what need was met for you in that moment?
2. Make a list
a) Consider making a list of common wonderful experiences that regularly meet your needs. Pick one or two a day and see if you can notice them as they take place. When you notice, ask yourself some of the questions in the first activity. Even just asking yourself how you feel right at that moment and drinking those sensations in will begin to positively change neuropathways.
3. Using this practice when under stress
a) First, notice the stress: How? Ask yourself how you feel when you are stressed, or the kinds of things you say to yourself or others when you’re stressed. Then see if you can sense when these are playing out. When you notice it…
b) Do a stress reduction practice like:
i. Breathe several breaths that are longer breaths going out than coming in.
ii. Ask your tongue and jaw to relax; perhaps touch your lips. If trying to go to sleep, try placing your knuckles to your lips. All of these activate the parasympathetic nervous system and act to calm and soothe.
iii. Open your lips slightly so that the mental thinking that often translates into unconscious movements of the jaw is interrupted.
iv. Doing tummy breathing by placing your hand on your tummy just below the rib cage (or rib basket as they say in Germany!) Breathe into your tummy so that it pushes your hand a half an inch or so from your backbone. This is great for anxiety.
After calming yourself, try to mentally step away from whatever the triggering event is. As your breathing eases and you feel calmer, ask yourself if there is some other part of the day that really met needs for you. This may be hard at first but stay with it. (I’ve found that I can almost feel my brain trying it out—seeing if it can really see a bigger picture). Admittedly, sometimes it’s difficult to do this. Yet, often, when I give myself time and space for it, it can be a real kindness to me to spend a bit of time in that sweet spot and take it in. With time and practice, our brain learns to automatically balance what isn’t working with what is.
This isn’t meant to take the place of using NVC as a tool to work with difficult moments. However, it can be a great tool to add balance and perspective before working through a disagreement.
4. Bonus Practice: Share your sweet spot in the day with someone who can listen and appreciate it. It so often happens that your sweet spot will make their day too.