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6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3)

6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3)

The greatest work of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) will be to fall back in love with his sensitivity. Or, to start the love in the first place if that is indeed the case.

This is assuming you are one of the many HSPs who are quite pissed off at the world for truly misunderstanding what it means to be sensitive. No, we’re not cry babies when people raise their voice at us. What we are is sensitive to the subtleties of this world. The things that 85% of the people miss, we don’t. It makes us more reflective and certainly more inward focused.

Another truth could be that we ourselves haven’t fully understood our own trait, so a part of us questions if we are to blame. Bottomline: We are highly aware, which can make us more creative. But we are also quick to getting highly stimulated, a frequently occurring state that often blocks out that creativity.

In parts 1 and 2, we explored the inward world of HSP. This article will elaborate on those ideas. Can we chart a plan that leads us to be at peace with ourselves? How should we get comfortable with who we are and eventually lead a life more in alignment with that?

We can. It starts with 6 Decisions.

1. Call it over stimulation, not fear

Are you always afraid and anxious? No. You’re sensitive and over-stimulated. It feels the same, but it’s not the same. And this is an essential reframe. If you label over-stimulation as fear, it will surely become fear. You know why? Because the mind is foolish. It can always conjure up something to be afraid of. And, once a state is labeled as fear, we rush into flight or fight and start scrambling for survival.

This takes us very far from what’s really true. We’re not fighting threats or dangers. All that’s happening is that we’re a little over-stimulated and in need of downtime to bring ourselves back to comfort. The best way to start is by actually removing the word “fear” from the picture. Don’t get me wrong. Fear is not a bad emotion, and in fact is a necessary one to keep our survival safe and intact. But over-stimulation is an overload on the nervous system asking us to slow down for a little bit. There’s nothing to be afraid of here.

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2. Don’t try to “overcome” over stimulation. You’ll just add more to it

If you try to overcome your trait, how do you think that’s going to go? You’re asking yourself to stop being you. Not only is that not going to happen, but it’s also giving you a very distasteful message about yourself.

Telling yourself not to get over-stimulated is a losing battle. It’s like asking yourself to not see a red car when you see a red car. It’ll never work, and you’ll just add more to your over-aroused state. Your trait, your high awareness, your sensitivity to nuance, your depth of processing are all innate. There are ways to get your life on board with your plans, but that cannot happen if you insist your inherent and intrinsic makeup has to change.

3. Let go of your need to be like the non-HSP.

It may seem unfair that we come with a trait that makes us so sensitive to the environment, when maybe instead we want to be happily ignorant of it. Like Sandy, the non-HSP, who escaped from noticing everything at the party except the missing piece of cake!

We have to try to remember that we also gain advantages because of the trait. If you’ll allow yourself, appreciate that HSPs actually have a big advantage with their inherent, intrinsically-handed-down, don’t-have-to-work-for-it, higher awareness of subtleties.

The higher awareness provides HSPs with greater opportunities to be more creative, perceptive, empathic and thoughtful. When you notice things that most others miss, that’s an opportunity to do something novel. It is no surprise then that many of the world’s most creative artists are highly sensitive people.

“HSPs are all creative by definition because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.” – Dr Elaine Aron, who discovered the HSP trait.”

Yes, it’s true. We feel things more intensely than others including difficult emotions like anger, fear, and pain. But, like Dr Andrea Wachter says “…you get to feel the sweet things in life very deeply too. While you may have to use more tools to weather the storms of life, when the storms subside and there are calm moments, you get to feel those more fully.”

4. Find ways to bring yourself back to your optimal range of stimulation

This is really what we are asking for.

Take a short walk. Leave the room. Mentally check out. Watch TV. Read a good book. Sleep. Meditate.

You need some mental space and it is critical you get it. How? This is a very individual matter, and the good news is that as an HSP, you will know best what activity helps achieve this.

For me, it’s going silent and politely asking people around me to excuse me. It is not always meditation although sometimes it is. Often, someone comes along who doesn’t understand. Sometimes, I offer him an invitation to read about HSPs, and other times if he doesn’t get it, I also offer him an invitation to go to hell (I don’t say it like that, but I sure as hell mean it like that).

The point I’m trying to make is that we should stop apologizing for our need to check out for a while. Look at it as nonnegotiable for yourself. We are taking in 80% more than others do. Your friends and family should understand exactly why you need private time to reboot.

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5. Introversion helps.

70% of HSPs are introverts. They get their energy from being inwardly oriented. The sooner you graciously accept that you prefer looking inward to recharge, the happier you’ll be.

But too many HSPs have kept their introversion a deep, dark, hidden secret. Society has given them the message that their desire to take time off for downtime and go off into their own private space makes them weird. And in the end, they’ve bought into it.

The majority suspects that we need to do this because we are “afraid of” or “shy of” people, and they show little hesitation in making this known to us. “Why are you so anti-social? Why would you want to leave the party already?”

If you don’t understand your trait holistically, you will forever be left feeling like there’s some flaw in you. It’s the reason why some HSPs are in ill-suited relationships, marriages, friendships, and professions primarily because they try to portray themselves as the opposite of who they are. As Extroverts.

Ironic and tragic at the same time, this has made HSPs more miserable than peaceful. And why wouldn’t it? You haven’t been able to wrap your head around why exactly you have been labeled as “flawed”, “shy”, “timid” when deep down inside you truly feel you are not.

There comes a time when you’ve had enough pretending. If you’re an introvert, accept it, own it. Choose your own ways of navigating your path. In the process, you will find your peace. If society gets in the way, train yourself how to say “Screw it. I’m doing it anyway. From now on, I’m being me.”

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Decision 6. Forgive your past by reframing it.

If while growing up your sensitivity was received by people, particularly by close family and friends, as a problem that needed fixing, then you are rightfully angry. We’re angry at them for asking us to change who we intrinsically are, and we’re also angry at us for believing their flawed verdicts about our value. And now, after we’ve understood our trait, we are angry at how much of our life got wasted in this whole, painful ordeal.

This anger can be toxic and can keep our healing from starting. This is where forgiveness can help us. Forgive the people who did not understand sensitivity as a trait. Isn’t it true that if we HSPs are just now understanding it, how could anyone else have known any better? Forgiveness doesn’t mean I like what happened, forgiveness means I no longer take it so personally. When we do this, the act of forgiveness is more in our favor than anyone else’s, because it empowers us to finally move on with our life. That has otherwise been put on hold.

“Don’t be so sensitive” can now be answered as “I will be. Thank you very much.”

***

Off we go into a life of our choosing without a flinch of disrespect for our sensitivity. Finally.

More by this author

Namita Gujral

Anxiety Coach

HSP, Highly Sensitive Person 6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3) The Biggest Fight of the Highly Sensitive Person (Part 2/3) How to Thrive, Not Hurt, as a Highly Sensitive Person (Part 1/3) 5 Reasons to Quit Intellectualizing Your Emotions How to Overcome Anxious Thoughts With Milk, a Hat, and a Post Office

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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