Better Questions

Your feelings and emotions are a gage that can help you displace negative thought patterns with positive ones, leading to decreased stress and better health overall.

Have you ever heard of the improv exercise “But/And”? The basic principle is a team pairs up and they start with a suggestion like “Let’s go to a movie.” In the first round, every response each person makes must begin with “but” - “But it takes so much time to get there,” “But it will be worth it,” “But what if there isn’t anything worth seeing.” Then the scene resets back to the original suggestion, and this time every response must start with “and” - “And we should invite some friends!” “And we can check out the movie listings on the way there!” “And we should go out to dinner after!”

Take a moment to reread that, noticing how the “but” section feels in your bodymind versus the “and” section. It’s a pretty stark difference. The first dialogue feels heavy and argumentative and defeatist and there’s a good chance that if you were really having that conversation, you would feel frustrated, underappreciated, and want to end it as soon as possible. The second, however, is probably one that you would like to continue. It is bright and exciting and full of possibilities.

Remembering this exercise in the conversations we have with ourselves, within our own mindbodies, can teach us a lot. How often is it that our thinking sounds something like, “Well, why did I do that?” “That was dumb.” “I have a bad back.” “What did I do to deserve this?” Has a lot of the same feelings as the “but” scene, right? Physiologically, negative thinking triggers a slight sympathetic (flight/flight/freeze) response which raises our blood pressure, suppresses our immune system, interferes with digestion, and increases anxiety and stress. Repetitive negative thinking deepens our connections to those thought patterns, eventually setting this mode of self assessment to default.

This might make it sound as if your thinking patterns become fixed after a certain time. But they do not. Here’s to neuroplasticity! Our bodyminds have the ability to change their patterns, even after years or decades of repetition. It is completely possible to teach an old dog new tricks. It just takes a little bit of willpower and support. (Willpower alone can do it, support makes it easier.) When you find yourself in self talk spiraling downward, pause. Take a breath. Recognize that track as useful at one time, and useful no longer. Then choose to ask yourself better questions. “What can I learn here?” “I’ll do that differently next time.” “My back is talking to me again; what is it trying to tell me?” “How do I move forward?” Basically, choose to run an “and” script. Deliberately engage in self talk that makes you feel light and hopeful. Connect with yourself in ways that make you excited to continue the conversation. #selftalk #decreasestress #butvsand #askyourselfbetterquestions #positivethinking #selfencouragement #productivepositivity #selfcompassion #selflove #selfhealing #healing

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