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10 Life Lessons For Highly Sensitive People

10 Life Lessons For Highly Sensitive People

All my life, I’ve been highly sensitive, and this has certainly carried with it a number of challenges. As a teenager, I was unable to be around people who were eating, because I couldn’t stand the sounds they made, and have always been repulsed by the texture of certain fatty cuts of meat.

And instead of simply learning to understand why, I become extremely grumpy if I do not get time to myself everyday!

Throughout my journey, however, I have learned that being highly sensitive can also be a tremendous advantage. If we can learn to understand and manage our sensitivity, we can then cultivate our increased awareness and empathy.

These are just a few of the many lessons that can help sensitivity become a strength, rather than a hindrance.

1. We Should Learn To Understand Our Emotional Responses

According to the article 5 Great Lessons for Sensitive People from Power of Positivity, the strong emotional responses that highly sensitive people experience are due to empathy. We often feel what other people are feeling. Learning to manage this can require some awareness and practice.

In my own experience, I have learned to stop and examine my thoughts whenever I experience a strong emotion. If it is clear that the emotion is not coming from anything in my own mind, then I am able to see that it belongs to someone else.

Empathy without awareness can look very “selfish.”  When we don’t realize that the emotions we are experiencing are not our own, we only focus on bringing relief to ourselves. When we are aware of the source of the emotional response, we not only bring greater relief to our own mind, but we are also able to better understand the people around us.

2. We Should Realize That Understanding The Response Does Not Mean We Should Act On It

Power of Positivity cautions against immediately trying to “help” other people or act on the emotional responses we experience. Sometimes it is in the other person’s best interest for us not to become involved.

When we experience the emotional response and understand where it is coming from, we then need to look at the situation logically in order to decide what to do next.

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I have learned this lesson many times in my own life. When I am around people experiencing fear especially, I have a very difficult time not stepping in and trying to make that fear go away.

Through calming activities and understanding, I have had to learn to look at the situation in terms of what the other person needs, rather than my immediate need to stop the emotional response.

3. We Should Learn To Listen To Our Intuitions

This may seem like it is contradicting the last point, but it is not. According to Power of Positivity, logic and intuition are both necessary in evaluating a situation, and many people who are highly sensitive discount their intuition.

If we experience a “gut” feeling, especially as to whether we should trust someone else, it is important to listen to that.  Because highly sensitive people are taking in so much from our environment, we are able to evaluate a situation on a subconscious level, which results in a stronger intuition.

I have found that as I have overcome fears and misunderstandings, my intuition has grown stronger. Sensitive people are often very sensitive to judgement and criticism that we receive from others, which our minds often take to be the absolute truth.

The fears and limiting beliefs that stem from these misunderstandings – and they definitely are misunderstandings – can often lead us to feel doubtful about situations when it is not necessary. As we sift through and eliminate these limiting beliefs and doubts, our intuitions will grow stronger.

4. We Need To Seek Out Stimulating Conversation

In Huffington Post’s How Highly Sensitive People Interact With the World Differently, Lindsey Holmes states that people who are highly sensitive tend to get bored in relationships if there is a lack of stimulating conversation. This is because we crave deeper, more meaningful connections and interactions with those around us.

Some of my best memories in my marriage are of long, drawn-out conversations while on the road, or even while sitting on our back porch.  My husband and I will talk for hours about everything under the sun – politics, religion, the meaning of life.

These interactions have led to a deeper, more fulfilling connection between the two of us.

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5. We Need to Schedule Some Alone Time

According to Holmes, people who are highly sensitive may become overwhelmed by busy, open offices or busy social activities. We may feel scrutinized by those around us, or we may become distracted by all of the sensory input around us.

Having time by ourselves each day will help us to focus better and decrease anxiety.

I live on a sailboat in a busy marina in the city and have very little privacy, so I have had to be creative in seeking out alone time. Sometimes, I wake up before everyone else and spend some time sitting on the dock, looking out over the water.

Other times, I find a quiet corner in Starbucks, where I can do my work uninterrupted. And alone.

6. We Should Not Avoid Conflict

Holmes states that people who are highly sensitive tend to avoid conflicts, because the emotions we experience during them are often overwhelming. However, the empathy that we experience can be a strong asset in problem-solving situations.

Experiencing the emotions of those around us can help us to better problem creatively, if we are able to stay calm.

Staying calm in conflicts has been key for me. It has also been important for me to realize that experiencing the other person’s emotions is not the same as experiencing their thoughts.

I still need to ask questions, rather than assuming that I know why the other person is feeling the way that they are.

7. We Need To Eat Well

In her article 8 Tips for Empaths and Highly Sensitive People on The Spirit Science, the author states that people who are highly sensitive need to eat foods that help to improve our mental states.

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She recommends plenty of raw foods and greens, but adds that the appropriate diet for one person may be different for another.

In my experience, I have found that eating whole foods, with a great deal of protein, has helped me to stay calm and to improve my own mental state. Drinking a great deal of water and limiting caffeine have also helped to decrease my anxiety.

8. We Should Seek Out Scents That Appeal To Our Senses

According to the article, essential oils and incense can help to create a calming environment for someone who is highly sensitive. Scents like lavender, bergamot, spearmint, and tea tree oil are most recommended.

I have found that I do not enjoy spending time in a home or room that does not smell good, and I often burn candles in order to create a pleasant aroma. And in vanilla, my favorite scent by far, I have found the most calming reaction.

In the winter, I will even boil a pot of water, vanilla, and cinnamon to achieve the scent to feel most calming and pleasant.

9. We Should Become Aware Of Our Stress Responses

In her article Highly Sensitive People: Desensitizing Your Fight or Flight Response: Creating a Sense of Safety in Your Life by Changing the Meaning of Your Experiences from Online Counseling, Ewa Schwarz states that when a highly sensitive person becomes overwhelmed, their fight-or-flight response is triggered.

This response is designed for short-term survival, and chronic fight-or-flight is harmful to the body and mind.  Becoming aware of this stress response and learning to minimize it is key to decreasing this feeling of being overwhelmed.

Learning to calm my body and mind has been very important in my journey. I have used breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and even walking to calm my stress response, so that I am able to move forward and process the situation around me.

10. We Should Examine And Redefine The Things That Cause Us To Feel Overwhelmed

According to Schwarz, the fight-or-flight response is triggered when the mind goes into an emotional reaction after making connections between the current situation and past experiences. The mind is detecting a threat in the present moment, based on its understanding of the past.

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Yet this is merely a perceived connection. In order to change our mind’s perception, we can go back to the initial assumption whenever our minds go into reaction.

Why are we seeing a connection? The connection is based on meaning that our mind has given the current situation.  When we can redefine the situation and stop seeing this meaning, we can diffuse the triggering event.

This has been absolutely key in my journey. When I am emotionally triggered, I stop and examine the thoughts behind the emotion. I then ask myself a series of question to determine why I think what I do, so that I can find the underlying assumption and redefine it.

This has helped me to become overwhelmed much less frequently.

I’ve often thought of a highly sensitive mind as being like a wild horse. It’s amazingly powerful, but it will take some time to train that horse and gain its trust.

With a lot of patience and perseverance, it is possible to train that horse and take advantage of its amazing power and strength.

Featured photo credit: Crystal/carianoff via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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