Chris Wilkinson

Chris Wilkinson

Chris Wilkinson column: Learning to be more positive about life

Did you grow up in a certain emotional environment?

Does your life suck sometimes? Maybe it even sucks frequently.

If you have a roof over your head, a vehicle or mode of transportation, a job, kids fed, the average (or less) amount of debt, and a certain measure of safety in your life, and you still answer yes to that question, you likely have an emotional home that makes you feel that way.

What’s an ‘emotional home’? Many in the personal improvement space define our emotional home as the emotional place we have learned earlier in life that is our default, go-to, place. Think of it like your emotional comfort zone.

Did you grow up in a certain emotional environment? Or is your marriage or family situation now characterized by a certain emotional environment?

Emotions, like drugs, are addictive. Emotions, like drugs, produce a cascade of effects in the brain including strong stimulation of biochemical pathways — a flooding of your neurochemicals and neurotransmitters, which drive our behaviours. And thanks to neuroplasticity, your brain’s way of learning and becoming more efficient, these patterns become repetitive and learned. Neuroplasticity is like paving a bumpy dirt road into a superhighway (of neural networks). The repetition of these neurochemical pathways, and some associated reward, is the basis of addiction.

What’s your emotional home? Is it gratitude, joy, hope, enthusiasm, confidence, satisfaction? Or is it a combo of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, fear, disappointment, self-judgment, anger or frustration? What group of words describes where your emotions are most often?

I believe many of you are gravitating toward that negative group of words. It’s so common, amongst pretty much everyone. Been there. It’s also pushed on us by society (even unintentionally). An overwhelmed, frustrated and fearful person is a stuck person. A stuck person is predictable and controllable. You should know that by now.

The good news is that neuroplasticity also means you can change your emotional home. You can change your response and your emotional comfort zone. I wish I could tell you it was easy, however, I can tell you that’s it’s straightforward, if one truly commits to the lasting change.

Lasting change happens in three steps:

1. Decide that the previous pattern must change and commit to the decision. Attach painful memories to your old patterns and let that be felt. Pain makes us move ‘away from’.

2. Build your awareness of the old pattern and break that pattern when it shows up. This is called pattern-interrupt and takes daily practice! Use reminders (on your phone, posties, reminders around the house, etc.) for the new patterns you want, and consider nightly journaling around this — just jot down whatever comes to mind and see where it goes.

3. Create an empowering alternative set of emotions (see positive group of words above) and reinforce it! For example, when you’re feeling the negative emotions, instantly stop the brain and get yourself into gratitude, and feel it in your chest and abdomen! You cannot be in gratitude and negative emotions at the same time! Let the gratitude win! Keep practicing this skill, even when you don’t want to. That’s how it works. It takes work. It must be earned, and it’s so worth the effort.

Everything that is happening is a challenge and opportunity to learn and grow and get better, or it makes you a slave to the situation. You choose.

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For more info visit www.NurseNextDoor.com or for questions or a free in-home Caring Consult call 250-748-4357, or email Chris.Wilkinson@NurseNextDoor.com

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