Are You Engaging in Spiritual Bypassing or “Toxic Positive Thinking”?
Positive Thinking sometimes gets a bad rap especially when things are not going well for you in life. In fact, some people have labeled too much emphasis on positive thinking as toxic positive thinking (a mindset that being positive at all costs at the expense of compassion and real opportunities for growth and connection.) Others point out that the concept of “positive thinking can secretly be spiritual bypassing which is defined as a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks”.
There is one practice that many experts agree can get rid of negative thinking which I cannot ignore even though most of this blog is focused on what we call Uplifting Emotions in HeartMath. The practice most often shared to fix negative thinking is practicing gratitude. Simply put, wake up in the morning and think or write down five things for which you are grateful. Do the same at night. This simple practice has been proven to replace the automatic negative thought habit many of us have developed with a more uplifting thought habit if practiced regularly. I do this daily. It takes very little time and gets easier and easier over time.
Exploring Positive or Uplifting Emotions
Thinking comes from the brain whereas feelings come from the heart and body. Shifting your thinking works some of the time if you are wired toward positive thinking or if you are very disciplined. Uplifting or Positive Emotions, which I mentioned are not the same as positive thinking, can be easier to access. If practiced daily they can have profound physiological effects that can be noticed in as little as six weeks. Scientist and University Professor Barbara Frederickson, Ph.D. says “positive emotions broaden our awareness while negative emotions narrow our attention.” And she adds, that as a culture we “undervalue our feeling states.” In the HeartMath system of emotional regulation, we practice shifting our emotions and breathing into our heart in order to create a state known as Heart/Brain coherence.
Here is How Heart-Brain Coherence Works!
When you breathe into your heart while activating uplifting emotions about anything or anyone in your life, your heart sends a lovely wavelike signal to the brain which can be measured as Heart Rate Variability (HRV). These HRV signals look like calm waves rather than jagged earthquake measurements, which is what most of us experience a good bit of the day.
There are many more messages coming from the heart to the brain than the brain to the heart! These signals which travel through the Vagus nerve synchronize the cardiovascular system with the nervous system with the endocrine system and the hormonal system. Studies have shown that these heart signals then turn on parts of your brain that are considered better for making decisions and feeling good. This is called cortical facilitation, in which the cortex becomes more active and helps direct messages that improve higher-level thinking, reduce stress, improve memory, improve reaction times, improve sleep and help you become more creative and intuitive about the problems you are facing. I am oversimplifying the neuroscience here because of the exact mechanisms by which this work might bore you, however, HeartMath has more than 400 studies that bear this information out.
15 Minutes of HeartMath Daily for 6 Weeks Can Change Everything!
This is why I believe that my 15 minutes a day of practicing HeartMath has affected me more profoundly than all of the other changes I have made in my health and lifestyle during the past fifteen years. It has changed my nervous system and put my whole body in a better place to heal itself. I am not saying give up those other good habits, but I am saying if you have not tried out HeartMath and feel stuck in your efforts to improve your mental, emotional, and physical health, this is a practice worth making part of your day. If positive thinking feels false and forced to you, then try activating uplifting feelings. I can help. My YouTube channel has many short HeartMath practices. Consider subscribing, please. My yoga classes and private coaching sessions all involve HeartMath and I am developing a course that I will be sharing soon with groups virtually or in person. This is based on the course I have developed for pre-service teachers at FGCU for emotional self-regulation and will also involve group coaching that I have used with my private clients successfully. Reach out if interested in being on the waitlist!
Are you ready to add HeartMath to your toolbox for feeling your best and doing your best daily?